Q: What skills do you need to be a TV news anchor, and why are they paid so much?

Credit: thestreet.com

Although some people view TV news anchors as just another pretty face reading the news off a teleprompter, they are real journalists. So if you want to be a news anchor, you’ll need the same skill set as any journalist–plus a few additional ones. The additional skills that an anchor needs will usually be learned on the job because they deal with on-air delivery, and that just takes practice–lots of it. News anchors have to develop a professional but conversational delivery while reading a teleprompter (it’s not as easy as it looks!) They also need to learn how to handle breaking news and last-minute script changes, both of which require ad-libbing skills and composure.

Since they are the face of the station or network, TV news anchors have been called half-journalist, half-celebrity.  Some think they have a cushy, overpaid job, but for the most part, they work long hours, weekends and holidays to bring you the news. Personal plans often have to be canceled on a moment’s notice for breaking news.  They are also expected to make public appearances and be involved in their local community by volunteering at events, joining charities, giving speeches, and serving on boards. Anchors who are well known and popular in their community can boost ratings and revenue for their stations, and that’s why some of them are very well paid. WNBC’s Chuck Scarborough makes $500,000 a year for anchoring the 6 p.m. newscast. But most local news anchors make far less than that. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics,  the average news anchor salary is about $67,000.

The big paychecks for news anchors are really only at the network level. According to TheStreet.com, ABC’s Good Morning America’s host Robin Roberts earns $18 million a year while her co-anchor, George Stephanopoulos earns $15 million. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is paid $12 million a year and Fox News anchor of Special Report, Bret Baier, takes home $7 million. Marquee news anchors can command these salaries because of their personal brands. The bigger their star power, the more viewers they will attract, which means higher ratings, more ads, and more revenue. The higher their ratings, the more likely they will also land the big “get” or interview with a person in the news. News anchors are also compensated relative to the size and demographics of their audiences. Advertisers are willing to pay a big premium for viewers in the 18-to-54 age range, and anchors who can deliver both the news and those demographics are much more than just another pretty face for their network.