A newsreader (or news anchor) is responsible for delivering news reports via TV, radio or digital media services.
Depending on whether a newsreader is to appear on radio or television news programmes, the news announcements will either take the form of auditory (radio) or audio-visual (TV) performances. In its most basic form, news reading is a voluntary position with a small community radio station, whereby the candidate will simply read a short statement of news items from a list; the onus is on tone of voice and pacing to make the stories sound engaging, warm and entice the listener to learn more. The newsreader will typically seek to avoid sounding dry, flat, or as if they are just reading from a pre-prepared list, which is where the reader’s talent defines their ability.
At the top end of the scale, the newsreader could be presenting a news programme on a national television programme. Here, the performance centres as much on the visual, and so care will be paid to the newsreader’s clothing, make-up, mannerisms, on-screen personality, ability to use a teleprinter (auto-cue) and their ability to work with a producer giving audio instructions in real time in a live environment. The TV broadcast side of reading the news is a particularly competitive industry (a facet of the career caricatured by Will Ferrell’s popular “Anchorman” movie), although the news media industry has gone completely global, meaning there are opportunities with smaller channels in any number of countries overseas.
Usually, the candidate will begin in an unpaid role, either with college radio, hospital radio or reading the news on a community internet-based radio or traditional radio station. It is essential that experience is gained in this way, even if the candidate has the backing of a formal qualification in broadcast media. Starting salaries in a professional role begin at around £13,000 at a commercial radio station (which, pro-rata, is considerable given the limited number of hours involved). Newsreaders working with a BBC local radio station can expect to receive up to £25,000 depending on experience, whilst those who make it to national radio can enjoy salaries in excess of £40,000.
For TV work, the salaries can be relatively high due to the competitiveness of the industry. Top level newsreaders with the BBC in London can earn in excess of £150,000.
- Working with producer to determine content for broadcast
- Writing script and preparing running order for show
- Presenting the news (and weather report, where this is not done by a meteorologist)
- Working in real time with the producer or lead anchor to overcome problems and improvise where appropriate
There are no specific formal qualifications, especially in the case of novice newsreaders working with community radio shows. However the candidate will need to demonstrate a good grasp of English (both written and spoken) as well as a commitment to the medium (be it radio, TV or internet broadcasting). It is possible to begin with a grass roots role and work up through being dependable and gathering experience with a variety of news shows. However, due to the intense competition for work at higher levels, a Post-Graduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism or similar qualification will really help, or at least put the candidate on a level playing field with other well equipped graduates.
- Be an effective communicator
- Possess strong written and verbal English language skills
- Be prepared to take a voluntary role to build experience
- Be enthusiastic and professional at all times
- Be prepared to attend many media industry networking events
- Have a passion for news reporting
- Be a strong team player in a fast-moving, live environment
The TV news room, by its nature, is a fast-paced (and to some, very intimidating) environment. As with many “entertainment” jobs, initial nerves are calmed by experience, although there is always the chance that something could go drastically wrong during live news reading. This is where the candidate’s many years of experience endow them with the improvisational skill to adapt and correct errors, omissions and technical difficulties.
Most novice newsreaders start in a charitable role with a community, hospital or college radio station. New candidates who are currently studying at university are advised to approach their campus radio station; this gives them an ideal way to test the water before deciding that broadcast radio is a career they wish to pursue on graduation from their course. Students studying for intensive media qualifications will cover both radio and television production in depth, and part of this course will usually involve journalism and audio presentation.
Most newsreaders will elect to stick to one format or another, so beginning a career in radio typically defines that as a speciality area for the candidate. That said, there have been exceptions, particularly with the BBC where popular local radio DJs and newsreaders make the move to television.
In terms of radio, the UK’s largest employer by far is the BBC, which operates national and international FM and AM radio services, plus regional services in every county in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The BBC is also the UK’s largest employer of newsreader staff in the country, along with Virgin Media.
Also known as…
- News anchor
- Radio newsreader
- Sound engineer
- TV producer
- Radio producer
- TV presenter
What’s it really like?
Ricky Salmon is Managing Director at Big Fish Media, and an experienced newsreader with BBC2. He can also be heard regularly as the voice for an “on hold” news service for BMW, Vodafone, Mercedes Benz and Carphone Warehouse.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
A love of radio. A joy of receiving information and entertainment in audio format, and having the listener form their own creative space based on how they interpret what you say. Radio is a great escape for a huge number of people, and continues to remain popular even though we now live in a truly digital age.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise’?
I don’t do vocal exercises – perhaps I should! Other than that, it’s a case of understanding the producer’s instructions, timetable (i.e. the show’s structure, or running order) and the script where there is one. Typically for news you will be reading from a script, but for bridging work, it’s a little more ad hoc and improvisational.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
Issues with computers not working properly. I guess gremlins in the machine can occur with any piece of electronic equipment; obviously recording live makes this much more of an issue. As an artist, you have to be ready to adapt and overcome any problems; this is mainly the producer’s job, but you need to remember you are supporting a professional team in an environment which is quickly evolving.
What do you like most about the job?
Working with my childhood radio heroes (Tony Blackburn, Janice Long, Paul Gambaccini, Steve Wright, etc).
What do you like least about the job?
Night shifts. To be fair, this is just par for the course. If you can’t handle late night time slots or VERY early mornings, this is probably not the job for you. You will quickly learn to manage your time and sleep patterns to accommodate the work, and simply put, there is no other way around this.
What are the key responsibilities?
Main jobs include researching for reports and features, writing the script and then, of course, actually reading the news bulletins. Novice newsreaders often forget that they will have heavy involvement in the preparation of material, and even in cases where everything has been prepared for you by a research team, you should know the material inside out so you don’t lumber through it uncomfortably. Also, if you lose your place, knowing the script and background story well will help you to recover (almost) seamlessly.
What is the starting salary, and how does this increase over time with promotion?
To gain experience you may have to volunteer to write or read news on a local community radio station or hospital radio. Starting salaries in a professional role are around £13,000 in commercial radio, £25,000 in BBC local radio, and £40,000 for national radio.
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Always give your best – you never know who is listening.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
A great voice, good communication skills and a love of shift work.
Any closing questions, comments or additional advice?
As there is no formal career structure, you can never know where your career as a radio newsreader will take you.