Local TV anchors seem to have glamorous jobs. They report the latest happenings on-air, are privy to news as it breaks, and typically become local celebrities. Off-camera, they may be invited to host or MC private or community events. Local anchor salary levels depend on the size of the metropolitan area, or "market," and the experience level of the anchor.
Anchor Role Explained
Anchoring television news is serious business. Generally, it requires at least a bachelor's degree in TV broadcasting or journalism. Anchors must own a degree of authority and credibility. For example, a person with a comical demeanor will not be believable as a news anchor, though he might do well as a weather person or sports reporter.
In addition, the glamorous aspect of the position may be overshadowed by the odd, unpredictable or long hours. Morning news show anchors may rise as early as 3 or 4 a.m., altering their body clocks and perhaps restricting precious time for family life. Late-night anchors contend with the same issues at the opposite end of the day. In addition, any anchor may be called upon to work long hours during extraordinary events, such as earthquakes, wildfires, hurricanes -- or elections. Morevoer, as each broadcast is timed to the second, stress levels can be high.
Stamina, a passion for news, confidence, the ability to react quickly to changes in programming or emergency situations without causing a break in delivery or relating any discomfort to the viewer are desired anchor characteristics. To deflect stress and be endearing to viewers, a strong sense of humor is invaluable.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, anchors working in small markets may earn as little as $23,000 annually. As of May 2010, the annual mean wage for TV broadcasters in Alexandria, Louisiana, for example, was $26,410. On-air talent in Dothan, Alabama, fared better at $29,840 per year. Casper, Wyoming, TV newscasters averaged $27,320 annually, while in Johnson City, Tennessee, the mean was just $23,110.
As anchors gain experience, they update their reels, find better agents and, hopefully, move up to better-paying markets. In Fargo, North Dakota, as of May 2010, the BLS reports the mean annual wage was $31,940. Anchors in Portland, Maine, earned a mean salary of $42,400, while Sioux City, Iowa salaries averaged $32,900. Anchors who despise big-city living, but enjoy living large, might consider West Palm Beach where, in 2010, the mean salary was nearly $80,000.
Large markets are where the big bucks are. According to New York Magazine, New York City local anchor Sue Simmons earned $2.5 million in 2005. The San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas are also high-paying cities. Anchors in Oakland, California (located just outside San Francisco), thanks in large part to award-winning news station KTVU, earned a mean annual wage of $94,170 as of May 2010. Seattle, Boston and Providence, Rhode Island area talent averaged between $68,000 and $70,000. The pay in Los Angeles and New York came down to a mean of $70,000 to $75,000. Anchors with more experience, higher ratings and better reputations can expect to earn significantly more than the mean.