WTTG Wants Anchors to Run Prompters

WTTG Washington plans to reassign the folks running its Teleprompters and have anchors operate them with their hands and feet, reports the Washington Post.

In a bid to save money, the station is planning to reassign the technicians who operate the electronic prompters that feed scripted news copy to the anchors while they’re on the air. Instead, the station wants its anchors to do the job themselves.

WTTG, known as Fox5, intends to train its newscasters to operate prompters using a series of hand levers and foot pedals, all while they’re reading the news as it scrolls by.

Phil Metlin, news chief at the Fox O&O, said in a memo that it was a “corporate directive” and that training would start in the coming weeks.

If the image of an anchor operating his or her own prompter while delivering the late news makes you think of one-man bands–as in, the guys literally playing multiple instruments at once for spare change, not the metaphorical digital reporter that’s increasingly popular in local TV–you’re not the only one. Says one unidentified WTTG’er:

Instead of orchestrating coverage, fact-checking, handling breaking news, paying attention to the [newscast], engaging reporters, questioning authorities, covering bad writing and technical mistakes, anchors will now spend most of their time” running the prompter, said one newsroom employee. “It’s kind of like a literal one-man band — singing, banging a drum, crashing cymbals, playing a trumpet and strumming a guitar . . . except we’re not playing show tunes here.”

Reporter Paul Farhi notes that the lively nature of a Fox newscast might make the task at hand even more difficult for anchors.

Fox5 has an usually dynamic newscast, with anchors and reporters frequently moving around the set. One reporter at the station wondered how an anchor could move around and still manage to run his or her own prompter. “It could be comic, and it could be awful,” he said.

Hey–if the pop star Pink can belt out a tune while hanging upside down from one knee on a trapeze, an anchor should be able to roll the prompter and talk at the same time.

[image: NY Times]

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.