In U.S. television
the chief news presenter(s) for network, local, cable and satellite
news programming is known as the Anchor. The term distinguishes
the presenter-journalist at the newsdesk in the television studio
(or above the convention floor, etc.) from the reporter in the field.
All news stories in a program are funneled through the anchor as
he or she mediates between the public, the network or and other
The most commonly
cited source of the term is the television news coverage of the
1952 Republican presidential conventions; the metaphor is borrowed,
not as one might expect, from the nautical realm, but from the strongest
runner of a relay team, the anchorman, who runs the final leg of
the race. In the conventional format of broadcast news, when the
anchor is not personally delivering a story by directly addressing
the viewing audience, or speaking over symbols and visual images
of the news, he or she is introducing and calling upon reporters
to deliver stories from the field or announcing a commercial break.
Moreover, an anchor represents the public and its need to know whenever
he or she interrogates and listens to the subject of an interview.
National news anchors represent their respective networks and are
held accountable for the ratings success of their respective news
programs in attracting viewers. In keeping with this serious representational
function, the anchor's style of delivery is reserved and his or
her appearance is designed to convey credibility. In other words,
the anchor is a television host at the top of a hierarchial chain
of command with special reportorial credentials and responsibilities
centered around "hard" or serious news of the day; celebrity interview
and tabloid news shows have hosts, not anchors, even when they are
organized similarly in format to network evening news. Journalists
in other television news formats without a similar division of labor
between studio and field are not anchors strictly speaking.
with the daily, prestigious responsibility for presenting national
news has brought public exposure that has made some network television
news anchors into house-hold names. During his tenure as anchor
of the CBS evening news, Walter Cronkite transcended the domain
of broadcast news into becoming a widely-admired and "most trusted"
national figure, eclipsing the fame of his cohorts, includingthe
NBC newsteam Chet Huntley and David Brinkley; contemporary network
anchors ABC's Peter Jennings, CBS's Dan Rather, and NBC's Tom Brokaw
are national celebrities and highly-paid television stars. However,
the role of the network anchor appears to be declining in cultural
significance as the broadcast networks lose their dominance over
the industry. The sheer numbers of anchors, for instance, the singles
and pairs CNN rotates over its twenty-four hours of news programming,
dilutes their potential star power.
Aside from abortive
attempts to team Barbara Walters with Harry Reasoner and more recently,
Connie Chung with Dan Rather, national news presenting has been
a white male preserve. However, local anchor teams have long represented
diversity in the community through a news couple of different race
and gender, supplemented by reporters on the sports and weather
beat and in the field. Even in the local context, however, gender
distinctions are vital. The highly publicized case of Christine
Kraft, anchor of KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Missouri illustrates the
willingness of executives to dismiss women considered "too old"
or "too unattractive" to fill this highly visible role. Such judgments
are rarely, if ever, made in cases involving male anchors, who are
seen to develop "authority" and "gravity" as their physical glamour
A secondary meaning of anchor comes out of semiology, or the study
of signs and meaning. Roland Barthes' "The Rhetoric of the Image"
also uses the anchor and relay metaphor to describe two different
functions of the caption in relation to a still image: a caption
anchors the image when it selectively elucidates its meaning; when
it sets out meanings not found in the image itself, it acts as a
relay. The television news anchor may be said to function similarly
as an "anchor" in this extended sense, by presenting a selection
of events as news stories and by providing a framework for the interpretation
of their social and cultural meaning.
Erik. Tube of Plenty. (New York:Oxford University Press,
Roland. "The Rhetoric of the Image," in Image, Music, Text,
transl. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill &Wang, 1977).
Liz. Talking Politics: Choosing the President in the Television
Age (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1995)
Thomas Fensch. ed., Television News Anchors: An Anthology of
Profiles of the Major Figures and Issues in United States Network
Reporting, (Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c1993)
Robert and Gerald J. Goldberg. Anchors: Brokaw, Jennings, Rather
and the Evening News (Secaucus, NJ : Carol Pub. Group, 1990).
Dan. We Keep America on Top of the World: Television Journalism
and the Public Sphere (London, NY: Routledge, 1994).
James, Doug. Walter Cronkite: His Life and Times (Brentwood,
Tenn. : JM Press, c1991).
Barbara Matusow. The Evening Stars: The Making of the Network
News Anchor (Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1983)
Margaret, "The Television News Personality and Credibility: Reflections
on the News in Transition," in: Studies in Entertainment: Critical
Approaches to Mass Culture (Bloomington: U. of Indiana Press,
1986), pp. 55-79.
Dan with Mickey Herskowitz. The Camera Never Blinks: Adventures
of a TV Journalist (New York: W. Morrow, 1977) .
The Camera Never Blinks Twice: The Further Adventures of a Television
Journalist (New York: W. Morrow, 1994).
Sanders, Marlene and Marcia Rock. Waiting for Prime Time: The
Women of Television News (Urbana : University of Illinois Press,