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#1
Old 08-15-2003, 10:06 PM
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Why do news anchors talk like they do?

Hey all. I didn't join this board because I liked any of you, but because I have a question. um. Just kidding.

Why do news anchors talk with the inflection, timing, and tone that they do? Do you know what I'm even talking about? The fellows in the studio usually talk pretty normally, but when they cut to some reporter standing out in a field talking about an unusually number of cow pies, they talk with this bizarre cadence...I can't describe it without actually audibly imitating it. This seems to be a universal phenomenon (at least in the U.S. ) So. How did this evolve? Any reporters out there? I'm sure they train reporters on how to talk, but WHY did they decide to talk like that? Why? WHY? WHY!?!
#2
Old 08-15-2003, 10:38 PM
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Affectations are a mystery to me. Tom Brokaw was raised in South Dakota, but now that he's on camera in New York he has to mis-pronounce "Oregon" like all the others.
#3
Old 08-15-2003, 10:39 PM
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I think that it might have something to do with how people act when on camera. Being filmed can cause people to act unnaturally, choppy talking being one of the more common examples. Has anyone seen the training videos for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004? The couple who introduces you to the basics overacts so much it is almost physically painful. Sure, all they had to do was read the script and act normally, but somehow that didnít happen.
#4
Old 08-16-2003, 12:09 AM
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Quite simply, they want every syllable to be understood clearly by every single viewer. Bob Dylan would make a horrible newscaster, as would Marlon Brando (circa 1957). They sacrifice naturalism for clarity.
#5
Old 08-16-2003, 12:19 AM
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IMO, because TV news is written for 6th graders, with no word a 12 year old doesn't know. Honestly. Every time it rains in LA, or snows in NYC, a newsfolk has to report standing outside, telling us how cold or wet it is. Much like an elementary school teacher- lecturing to kids. The only time there is any "normalcy" is when it is an emergency,& there is no script. There are many ums,uhs, you knows & other fillers, & more of a "normal' speech pattern.
#6
Old 08-16-2003, 07:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Phage
Has anyone seen the training videos for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004? The couple who introduces you to the basics overacts so much it is almost physically painful. Sure, all they had to do was read the script and act normally, but somehow that didnít happen. [/B]
If that's John and Martha King (I haven't seen the sofware) they're rumored to be like that in real life, too.

Yeah, they're cheesy.
#7
Old 08-16-2003, 07:54 AM
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My take is that by exagerating the intonation they want to make the news sound more important and have people remember them but now that everybody does it it has no efect except that someone who talked more casually would not be doing news for long.
#8
Old 08-16-2003, 08:16 AM
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I suggest that it might go back to the days of radio when reception wasn't very good, and overenunciation was used to compensate.
#9
Old 08-16-2003, 10:37 AM
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It's all part of the "PERSONALITY". Since few of them have any real journalistic talent and are only there to read the news prepared for them, they have to make themselves stand out from every other newsreader in order to boost ratings. To do that, they must appear trustworthy. How do you appear trustworthy? Wear a conservative suit, look sincere, and speak in melifluous tones. Schools exist to teach just these things.

The Ted Baxter character did an hilarious sendup of this whole notion. I think it was he who mistakenly read a prompt during a newscast, saying something along the lines of "A serious fire broke out today, take off glasses, look concerned".
#10
Old 08-16-2003, 11:04 AM
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What is the origin of the Radio/TV "announcer's voice?" This is an interesting question. As a WAG I would say the TV announcers's voice is obviously a direct descendent of the radio "announcers voice" which is a direct descendant of .... hmmm...who is the Ur voice?

I looked on the old radio sites but did not see anything specific about the origin of announcing. I'd hazard a guess that stage actors turned announcers had something to do with it the early years of radio as the speaking skills (ie projection, diction and clear tonal enunciation) involved would have been similar.
#11
Old 08-16-2003, 01:01 PM
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I'm a Fox News junkie (Yeah, go ahead, roll your eyes at me) and I like that they all seem to talk more like regular people. My life likes to listen to NPR. Man, talk about boring, NPR news reporters want to make me go to sleep. They talk so slow, and quietly and soft, I think that they would make great golf announcers.
#12
Old 08-16-2003, 02:11 PM
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BTW, the Ted Baxter character was a parody of the late LA TV guy Jerry Dunphy, & some believe a little George Putnam-still on LA radio.
#13
Old 08-16-2003, 02:23 PM
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I hate how anchors always pause a few words before they cut to somebody else. Is this anything like what you're talking about?

"Area Man thought he was just purchasing a regular VCR, but the real story....... turned out to be not so simple."
#14
Old 08-16-2003, 03:47 PM
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ok, my take on the way news anchors talk...

on the general way they talk:
the microphones have a limited pick up area and frequency range. they can also magnify lisps and other irregular speech patterns. instead of being able to understand the news anchor, you could just get a bunch of bursts of static because the man or woman is a heavy breather when they talk. most of the anchors are trained to talk a specific way for clairity sake - for coast to coast understanding and to have a clear sound.

on switching to a story or live report or such:
they have to make sure that the camera men, reports, and other TV people are prepared to make the transition. changing the way they speak it to get everyone's attention. that way there isn't any dead air or reports caught picking their nose on camera.
#15
Old 08-16-2003, 04:07 PM
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What I don't get is the odd inflectional patterns, when announcers put stress on short little words that are normally unstressed. Example:

"This IS WKRP in Cincinnati."

Oh, I had a doubt it really was that, thanks for reassuring me.

"The Secretary-General said he would convey the message TO the Prime Minister."

Oh, was there some confusion about which direction it was going, and you had to stress the "to"?
#16
Old 08-16-2003, 04:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Achernar
I hate how anchors always pause a few words before they cut to somebody else. Is this anything like what you're talking about?

"Area Man thought he was just purchasing a regular VCR, but the real story....... turned out to be not so simple."
That describes Jim Dolan on N.Y. station WABC, channel 7. New York listeners will back me up on this.He is rapid fire, stacatto, and, to me, annoying as hell.
It could be a story of a cop shot, or a story of a kitten in a tree. Same delivery. He can make mundane into sensational, and yet, you are drawn to his stories. Go figure.
#17
Old 08-16-2003, 07:07 PM
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To be honest, I always thought that they way they talked was because that's how you're supposed to talk if you're an anchor or reporter, or such. I just assumed that it's supposed to be professional sounding.
#18
Old 08-16-2003, 09:30 PM
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(Slight hijack)

Ok, so why do they pronounce "Carnegie" so weirdly in the NPR commercials? I had always thought it was pronounced "CAHR nuh gee" but they say "cahr NAY gee". It doesn't do much to alleviate the stilted quality of their speech.

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#19
Old 08-16-2003, 10:39 PM
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Cause tawlkin nachrally is fulla slurs, elisions, glottoral stops, idioms, and regional pronunciations.

Talking with perfectly correct enunciation, and pronouncing every single syllable and consonant in a standard way takes effort. It helps to throw in a cadence of pitch, duration, and volume that goes up and down, long and short in order to make sense of the sentences one is saying.

Televangelists and preachers have their own style of doing this. As do policitical speakers (with one notable exception I'm not allowed to mention in this forum); and stage performers; and TV and radio announcers; and kindergarten teachers.

When someone eschews this formalized talking, they often run the risk of not being heard correctly.

Also, public speakers find themselves with mics and PA systems that aren't working correctly (if at all) and background noise to compete with. That is why they are often 'loud talkers,' especially beat reporters on the street.

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#20
Old 08-16-2003, 10:45 PM
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I always thought they went to an announcers' school like Columbia School of Broadcasting (not affiliated with the Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.). Or, in Brokaw's case, it comes from a bicycle pump up his butt.

There's a certain element of style in it. News readers sound like news readers for the same reason disc jockeys sound like the announcers for monster truck rallies. It goes with the gig.
#21
Old 08-16-2003, 10:51 PM
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Sally Thorner on WJZ Baltimore has to suffer from "emotional whiplash". That woman can flip from "maternal" to "concerned" to"angry" to "amused" all between commercial breaks.

Amazing.
#22
Old 08-17-2003, 12:57 AM
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I think it's also the difference in sentence structures. News reports are similar to formal writing and very different from natural speech. Grab a newspaper and try reading it out loud, I think you'll sound the same way.
#23
Old 08-17-2003, 01:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Dun King
(Slight hijack)

Ok, so why do they pronounce "Carnegie" so weirdly in the NPR commercials?
Pretension, IMHO. I noticed that pretentious people will often mispronounce or overpronounce a word here or there, as if to validate their status. (Stay-tus, not stah-tus. Take the standard NPR pronunciation of a certain Central American country, for instance: Nee-kah-LAH-goo-WAH ...
#24
Old 08-17-2003, 12:13 PM
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It's just really, really bad practice for a TV journalist to talk this way. Some end up talking like this by copying other journalists, erroneously believing that some freakish cadence is "newspeak." It's not, and any journalist coming through a newsroom I worked with using those rhythms would quickly be given some pointers.

Some of it also derives from voice exercises given to younger reporters to sound more weighty/older/have more gravitas - the patterns become overexaggerated and they end up with a sort of pretentious heaviness.
Quote:
I think it's also the difference in sentence structures. News reports are similar to formal writing and very different from natural speech. Grab a newspaper and try reading it out loud, I think you'll sound the same way.
Absolutely not, or it shouldn't be. Writing for broadcast is an entirely different discipline than writing for print. Writing for radio or TV (with a few differences, such as in TV you don't need to mention interviewee names because you strap them) should be in language as close to natural speech as possible. Reporters using lengthy, formal, "print" journalese are just doing it wrong. What they should be doing is talking to the audience as though the viewer/listener was on their level, ie a peer, NOT reading or declaiming or lecturing to them.
#25
Old 08-17-2003, 12:24 PM
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It's not just the enunciation, it's removing what I suppose they consider to be non-essential words. For example, instead of saying "The weather tomorrow will be cloudy with temperatues in the mid 70s" they'll say "Weather tomorrow: cloudy in the mid-70s." This is common in both TV and radio (and it's not just the weather report). I guess they're trying tro fit as much info as possible into the smallest time, but to me it makes everything sounds choppy and hard to follow. If your attention flags for half a second you lose the gist of what they're saying. It bugs me.
#26
Old 08-17-2003, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by The Dun King
(Slight hijack)

Ok, so why do they pronounce "Carnegie" so weirdly in the NPR commercials?
How about David Broncatio's pronounciantion of "in-TEL" (as if it was some telco company) instead of "IN-tel" (as in intelligence).

An Intel PR person eventually corrected him a couple of years ago.
#27
Old 08-17-2003, 03:45 PM
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Quote:
IMO, because TV news is written for 6th graders, with no word a 12 year old doesn't know.
I keep hearing this kind of thing about the newspapers and tv news, and it's simply not true. If it's true in your family, then you have an extremely advanced 6th grader.

Words like "ironic" "contend" "categorically deny", etc are used all the time, and I've done enough teaching to know that your average 6th grader would just up and admit that he doesn't know what these mean.
#28
Old 08-17-2003, 06:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cardinal
I keep hearing this kind of thing about the newspapers and tv news (that the writing is aimed at a 6th grader --DG), and it's simply not true. If it's true in your family, then you have an extremely advanced 6th grader.

Words like "ironic" "contend" "categorically deny", etc are used all the time, and I've done enough teaching to know that your average 6th grader would just up and admit that he doesn't know what these mean.
When I studied journalism, admittedly more than forty years ago, that is pretty much what was taught. My old geezer memory is a little foggy on the details, but let's compromise at 8th grade level. I was surprised at the time that we were told to tone down the writing so that basically an ignoramus could understand it. It's difficult to do if you have a decent vocabulary. Some of those "big" words will slip into the writing from time to time unbidden.

But if you read some of the other message boards and especially chat rooms it isn't hard to believe that basic ignorance is the norm and anything approaching literacy the exception. That's the great attraction of the SDMB--that a high percentage of its members are literate and well-spoken. SDMB members probably do read and understand newspapers, but the pre-digested pap offered by television news (where the vast majority get their news) makes words like "ironic," "contend" and "categorically deny" easy to swallw because the listener doesn't have to actually read them.

As for understanding, I would add that many people do not understand the difference between "ironic" and "coincidental," but think that they understand the news. On point (the OP, you know), quite a few news readers, for all their pomposity of speech, mispronounce words they should know and scramble their grammar. I don't expect them to be perfect, but it would be nice if they at least appeared to have earned their degrees.
#29
Old 08-17-2003, 09:59 PM
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To further illustrate my point, I was the kind of geeky kid who read all the time, to the point that my parents had to forbid reading at times because it was interfering with my getting things done.

When I was in 6th grade, I didn't fully understand the news, so I know it's true.

The other statement thrown around is that the newspapers are written on an 8th grade level. This is simply not even close to being the case. I tutored 10th and 11th graders on vocabulary and verbal skills, and discovered that even those getting average scores on the SAT I Verbal could not fully explain the L.A. Times or Newsweek, because the vocabulary and references were too adult.
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