Performance Coaching for Television News & Sports Talent
When I joined Audience Research & Development (very!) green and fresh out of graduate school in 1982, the firm’s Managing Partner gave me one piece of advice. “Don’t ever mention that you trained as an actor,” he counseled. “Acting is pretending. Journalists are concerned with being real.”
I wish he’d been with me last Fall to watch actor Jeff Daniels hold a Broadway house spellbound pretending to be lawyer Atticus Finch, in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.
Everyone in the house knew they were watching Daniels. In fact, many had paid extra just to see Daniels – and they broke into applause at the first sight of him. Yet somehow, by the time the story ended, we had all forgotten the actor and were instead mesmerized by the choices and events confronting the attorney, Finch. Daniels was not the story. Finch was.
Anchoring is not acting, of course, but anchors and actors face the same fundamental challenges.
First, how do you communicate authentically in what are essentially inauthentic circumstances? A stage setting is a stylized and intentionally dramatized environment, but so is a studio setting. And talking to a camera is fundamentally inhuman, because the very ability to communicate at all evolved out of our ability to see and hear each other. You could, in fact, argue that having a conversation to a camera is less “real” even than acting, because actors can generally see and hear whoever they are talking to.
Second, how do you focus and vest your audience in the world of the stories you’re telling? Jeff Daniels is such a big star that people applaud the sight of him. Then, somehow, he directs all that attention away from himself and into the world of the story.
Anchors face the same challenge in even more challenging circumstances. Daniels’ audience, at least, comes to see and even concentrate on the story. News viewers generally watch newscasts with an ambivalent commitment in an environment full of distraction. It takes extraordinary communicators to consistently earn their attention and keep it.
Daniels is also helped by the fact that he is actually better prepared than many anchors. He deeply understands the story he is there to tell. News anchors are often reading something they’ve seen and studied only briefly, if at all. Many even routinely ask questions concocted by someone else, saving them the trouble of even paying any kind of real attention. In the process, they do exactly the thing my old boss warned against and a certain prominent politician tweets about. They pretend. They fake it.
We live and work now in a time when the demand for authenticity is greater than ever – especially from those generations that are growing up in a world where conversing on camera is a way of life for anyone that knows how to FaceTime. Acting is the study of authenticity – what it looks and sounds and feels like – and what actors like Jeff Daniels know about that has never been more relevant to the day in, day out work of anchoring the news in a way that is honest, compelling and real.
I wish I’d been smart enough to explain that to my boss – and my clients – those 30 years ago. We’ll work to make up a little for lost time in future posts here. In the meantime, I can recommend a ticket to To Kill A Mockingbird as a good professional investment for anyone interested in the study of honest, selfless, and compelling delivery of anything — fact or fiction.
It should be instructive for television news journalists, especially.
Next time: The Sound of Authenticity, or Why Don’t You Sound Like That On the Air?
Barry has been coaching television news and sports talent at all levels since 1982. Every night around the world, millions of people get their news from anchors and reporters he has trained and consulted.
Tony is an award-winning journalist and a master coach. In addition to his extensive work with news and sports talent, he leads our work with Spanish-language newscasts and coaches MMJs.
Barrett is a performance coach and visual image specialist, She is an especially good resource when improving the look of your team is a priority.
Jenni specializes in the development and care of the speaking voice. Contact her especially when you have concerns or questions about the way your talent sound and read.
Patty is our long-time office manager. When you have an administrative question for us, she'll have an answer.
When you have an immediate need, we can respond faster than ever. When your resources are limited, we can work with your team without incurring travel expense. And if we are visiting your station regularly, we can followup more powerfully than ever before.
All you need on your end is a computer with high-speed internet access and a camera. We take care of the rest.
All of our services are also available of Spanish-language news and sports talent and for the news and sportscasts that they serve. Contact Barry Nash or our Spanish- language coach, Tony Martinez, for more information.
We are a team of coaches who specialize in the training and development of television news, weather and sports talent.
In all cases, our goal is to provide the resources talent need to achieve "Breakthrough Performance" -- delivery that engages the minds and hearts of viewers, demands their attention, and inspires their loyalty.
When performance feedback is a priority on your end, we make it one on ours. Do send us an email, we'll take a look and come back to you confidentially without obligation.
Address : 2410 Farrington Street
Dallas, Texas 75207