This makes many producers blood boil. You toil over a newscast for hours, then during the show, the anchors start complaining about and/or making fun of the copy you worked so hard on. Complaining on set during the newscasts about the show, is the number one way to create a huge divide between anchors and producers. It creates the “us vs them” mentality that causes so much friction. But there are two sides to this, and we are going to really delve into both.
That said, many of those anchors are really not trying to just be jerks. I PROMISE YOU. There are reasons behind the decision, (and it often is a decision) to complain about copy on the set during the newscast. The biggest reason, FRUSTRATION. When anchors reach the point of complaining on set, most are usually at their wits end. From their point of view, they have tried to “talk things through” and the producer/management has ignored the issue. Many veteran anchors are just tired and frustrated that they constantly have to “train newbies.” If you step back and really think about it, you can see how this can happen. One anchor I consulted with on this article says, “Even if you are not normally a complainer, when you get an anchor sitting next to you who is a little immature and starts going off, it can be very difficult not to give into the temptation and complain also. It is human nature.” Another anchor mentioned, “I worked so hard to get to this point, I don’t want to come across as clueless or even just plain stupid. Why aren’t we (anchors) protected?”
A key thing to remember, is when the anchors “mess up” and read copy that is factually incorrect or just doesn’t make sense, it isn’t just the anchor that looks stupid. The entire news operation loses credibility. Anchors are very aware that they are the poster children for the entire organization. They understand that if they come across as not credible, their job is on the line, because that lack of credibility undermines the entire station’s standing in the community. When you separate yourself from the insults, and really think about that, you can see why anchors sometimes “go off.” It is a lot of responsibility, and yet they give up control of the newscasts to producers. It is how the system works, except in rare cases. Anchors are depending on you to get the facts right, so they look credible. Yes anchors can, and most will, get into the newscast and fact check and rewrite if they notice a potential issue. But in the morning, and during breaking news that is not always possible. The anchors need the information to be correct, or at least quickly fixed if there is a problem.
Which leads to the second reason, anchors find themselves complaining on the set over a mistake. It is absolutely maddening, when they see an issue, raise the issue to the producer and then it is not corrected and airs incorrectly two and three times. Many anchors say they try to help and bring up an issue with a super, or a misspelled item on the ticker, and then it isn’t changed. The anchor doesn’t have access, and can only watch the mistake happen again and again. Remember, credibility for the entire news organization is on the line, anchors are the final gate keepers.
There also are issues in many shops where veteran anchors are told, to just read whatever is there, and let the producers do all the gate keeping. Anchors are told to stay out of the decision making and that producers rule (see Producer Driven) the roost. Problem is, often the producers are much less experienced than the anchors. No matter how smart you are, experience brings a lot of knowledge. So veteran anchors sit, wishing they could just bang their heads against the wall and watch something they could have prevented play out on the air. Excruciating!
That said, giving in to human nature and complaining on the set, diminishes respect toward you if you are one of those anchors. It sends a message that you think you are superior and fed up with the underlings. And that’s even if what you say is absolutely true. So this is where things get hard for the frustrated anchor. You need to find a different forum to vent. Maybe that’s after the show, on the phone with your co-anchor. Maybe it is at the gym working out your frustrations. Maybe it is in a meeting with the EP or AND. Just make sure you keep the conversation pro-active. Producers and managers, put ointment on the sting, and look to see if the anchor really does have a good point. If the anchor feels they have a forum to address concerns, the on set rants will eventually stop. Chances the quality of the newscast will improve as well.