The truth about anchoring on TV

Most people feel that by anchoring, a journalist has 'arrived'.

 |  3-minute read |   08-01-2017

From friends who you may not have spoken to for years to your contacts to your loved ones, hardly is anyone not overwhelmed when that moment arrives. The "moment" I refer to is when people see you on television, playing anchor. In my case, anchoring a news bulletin.

Even though I’ve been a television reporter since the end of 2008, the thought of reading news did not appeal much. Breaking stories, travelling to uncharted territories, volunteering for interesting assignments, that is where my heart was.        

Based on the advice of seniors and well wishers, I began anchoring from June 2016. 

From the response thereon, it seemed to me that most, if not all, felt that by anchoring a journalist has "arrived". People congratulated me for being able to sit before a prompter and read out lines. When I protested, they chided me for being too modest.

Without taking anything away from my more accomplished anchor friends and colleagues, my humble submission here is - we've perhaps got our priorities mixed.

Imagine standing in the open, facing a torrential downpour accompanied by winds of over 200 km per hour - and working. Imagine taking the first flight to a region recently ravaged by floods or an earthquake and working, imagine landing in a location you've never been to and reporting when there is not even network on your mobile phone, or imagine operating in an extremely tense environment and winning the confidence of those sitting with secrets, so much so that they trust you with issues concerning matters of life and death.

Imagine losing track of the number of times you’ve walked up and down a building just to meet that one person or get that one piece of document which can nail a lie.

A reporter faces such situations quite regularly and does emerge with a story to tell. More often than not, in this quest, the reporter is a one-man army.

An anchor, whereas, stands with an invisible army. There is the designer, the make-up artist, the producer, the director, the desk, the reporters, to name a few. Yes, anchoring has its own challenges. But to me, they seem different and dare I say, not as grave.

There are many, including editors, who wonder if genuine, on-the-ground reporting on television is dead.

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Fact is, both a reporter and an anchor have roles which are complimentary. (Photo: Reuters)

Maybe this is because we live in the anchor-age. Seldom will you see slick promos of reporters and their work. Not so many stories and issues are given the kind of hype unless an anchor goes on the ground.

A story is not big enough if an anchor is not being sent out there. In fact, there are those with no particular area of expertise but are dispatched from one story to the other since they are seen as "good live artists"!

I recall a recent protest march in the capital where a beat reporter was told to make way for an anchor. Disgusted, he walked away. Some years ago, I went on assignments accompanying anchors on the field and had to "feed" them information.

When did our viewers ask this?

Fact is, both a reporter and an anchor have roles which are complimentary. Looking at the state of affairs, shouldn’t we encourage our reporters to ask, criticise and hound more? Yes, in my opinion.

Substituting one with the other, may work at times, but is best avoided.

Hoping my friends remember me and celebrate the next story I do, just like they did when they saw me anchoring.

Also read: What's missing in Indian news channels

Writer

Jugal R Purohit Jugal R Purohit @jrpur

The writer is a senior special correspondent for India Today.

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