A news anchor isn't just a pretty face

News anchors are no less than journalists. The job is a very sensitive one; they're not just parrots reading the news.

Waqas Rafique March 03, 2013
'Bottom feeders in the TV news industry', 'bimbos' and 'talking heads' - that’s how I have often heard news anchors being described as. Some have even been accused of looking constipated on TV.

Take my word - no news anchor deliberately puts on this expression on TV. Sometimes, it just happens!

News anchoring in Pakistan is a relatively new concept. It emerged with the advent of cable TV news. Before the concept of sensational 24-hour Urdu TV news came to Pakistan, all one could find for decades was the poker-faced news readers only on Pakistan Television (PTV) news.

In those days, they just ‘read out’ scripts. In a society which still looks down upon fine arts and artistes, becoming a PTV newscaster was considered the easiest way to becoming a star. People from what we call ‘good families’ were also comfortable being seen on TV in this capacity.

The standard of hiring news casters has gone up many notches because now the news requires more than just reading out things. One has to be spontaneous, take live calls and talk to reporters and so on. All of these things cannot be prepared for in advance, so thinking on your feet is indeed a skill a news anchor must possess.

I believe it is still the kick many get out of being seen on TV that draws young aspirants to take up news anchoring when they are in the process of deciding to join broadcast journalism.

It is interesting that after almost a little more than a decade of vibrant TV journalism in Pakistan, news anchoring is yet to attain its due status in the news gathering function of any chaotic newsroom. In major international news networks, one has to have extensive, well-rounded experience on TV news before they are chosen to be put in the anchor chair and go on to become the face of the station.

Sadly, though, in Pakistan it is still thought that all one needs to be an anchor is an attractive face, reasonable voice, and acceptable pronunciation. Here, people believe that being glamorous is the benchmark to get hired.

Yet, this is not the beginning and end to being an anchor.

What we often forget is that news anchors are journalists and are not lesser ones.

A bit of experience in he job will reveal that an anchor must have the whole package and not just a pleasing face. Intelligence and apt knowledge of a wide range of topics is essential. Moreover, one's body language needs to be strong as there is no room for uncertainty in this profession. News anchors must suppress their emotions and always look composed to the viewers, no matter how morbid or funny the news they're delivering gets. There is no room for a shaky voice; it isn't an easy feat.

Having understood all of this, it would appear that anchors in Pakistan would be very well respected as they have all the makings of a star. Yet, if you peep inside the heart of a news anchor, you will notice that most of them are crippled over the reputation they carry in Pakistan - that of being just a parrot. That’s why some feel that they need to branch out of news anchoring and perhaps host a show of their own. They begin to lose their passion for one of the greatest jobs in the world all because they feel they are not being able to achieve their true potential.

This is where it gets dangerous.

I believe that awareness needs to be raised about this job so that our future journalists don't discard this profession based on inaccurate opinions. Moreover, people must know that a news anchor isn't just a pretty face.

Read more by Waqas here.
Waqas Rafique An Islamabad based journalist who was a former employee of Express News. He tweets @waqasrafique (https://twitter.com/waqasrafique)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.