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MorningNews

Canned anchor questions for live field reporters

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Watching KTVT CBS 11 News in Dallas-Fort Worth. Anchor Doug Dunbar often follows up the reporters live sign off with what seems to be a rehearsed question regarding their report but tonight there was technically difficulties and the reporter couldn’t hear him. Well Doug then went on to answer the question himself with details the station was provided from city officials.

 

Is this phony back and forth between the anchors and reporters some NDs vision? It’s so stupid.

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Watching KTVT CBS 11 News in Dallas-Fort Worth. Anchor Doug Dunbar often follows up the reporters live sign off with what seems to be a rehearsed question regarding their report but tonight there was technically difficulties and the reporter couldn’t hear him. Well Doug then went on to answer the question himself with details the station was provided from city officials.

 

Is this phony back and forth between the anchors and reporters some NDs vision? It’s so stupid.

 

You just saw the sausage being made.

 

Yes, those questions are almost always scripted, unless it's in the midst of some rolling breaking news coverage. They're not about to let the talent ask a question off the top of their heads only to have the reporter have no good answer.

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I agree that it almost always looks stupid when it's scripted.

 

What I think looks better is if you can get the anchor and reporter to agree to do a question and not script it word for word – just a bullet point or two in the prompter. That ends up feeling much more natural on air, but that's only if the anchor and reporter are good at ad-libbing (and not all of them are) and if it's something worth dwelling about after the story.

 

I know it's also a practice at one of the bigger station groups to almost always have a double box at the end with the hopes that the anchors and reporters will ad-lib *something*. But on a day-to-day basis, I think that looks pretty awkward too.

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It does seem awkward. But a lot of times it seems like the question was answered in the package. I can’t find the clip but onetime on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno Ross The Intern (Ross Matthews) did a tour at WESH. The anchor summed up the philosophy of news packages as something like “tell the viewer what your going to tell them, tell them and tell them again.”

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Edit: I found it but didn’t have the quote. Trying to remember where I heard that.

 

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A good solid reporter has "suggested questions" and the best reporters get on the phone to the anchor a goes over the question(s) with the anchor. This system creates accountability and credibility between the reporters and the anchors. It FORCES them to be accountable to each other and not the show producer. It reduces mis-communication to almost zero.

Best part is nobody will look stupid on the air because they asked a stupid question.

 

A good reporter will be able to expect curve balls and be able to field the wild questions that will get tossed.

 

And then...There is George Reading....former west coast teevee anchorman..

 

George would just drift-off into la-la- land and forget everything the reporter said in their live package. The reporter would say " The suspect is in custody.." and George would ask if "Any suspects were in custody???" after the reporter tossed back from the live hit.

 

...But the brain of George Reading is another topic for another day.

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A good solid reporter has "suggested questions" and the best reporters get on the phone to the anchor a goes over the question(s) with the anchor. This system creates accountability and credibility between the reporters and the anchors. It FORCES them to be accountable to each other and not the show producer. It reduces mis-communication to almost zero.

Best part is nobody will look stupid on the air because they asked a stupid question.

 

Yes. This. One of the best reporters I've worked with would ask me if we would have time to do a question and would then give me and the anchor a list of 2-3 topics that she could talk about. I knew it was coming and could plan for it. The anchor(s) would sometimes call her up before the show for extra credit to make sure it felt really natural. This is when it's best, though I don't know if you could ever plan on this happening every day. I certainly don't.

 

I'd also add that it's a somewhat safe bet to plan for an unscripted question or crosstalk if the reporter has really seen some shit that day (fires, floods, hurricanes, snow, rain, etc.) though it's still good to get everybody on the same page about it before airtime.

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We're more likely to do sidebar stories in the evening. The morning news team typically does more Q&A.

 

A producer should alert the anchor if the reporter is having IFB problems, or otherwise struggling to hear programming in the field (loud noises, and so on).

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All interesting information here and I guess I just didn't realize this is such a common practice in the news world.

 

But ultimately, why not just thank the reporter and move on? KPRC did this for a long time and when there's literally a question after every single live toss it just seems so insincere. What's the point of intentionally leaving information out of the report just so the anchor can ask the question?

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It shows the reporter is on your side working hard to get the facts right. They are the coverage you can count on.

 

In Maryland, they’re just complete coverage.

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In Maryland, they’re just complete coverage.

 

It's WJZ... Maryland's News Station. (sorry, I had to do it! Had to take the opportunity to say that. Lmao)

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