They’re never seen, only heard. Often, they become a singular part of a local TV station’s brand. Mostly, they toil away in anonymity although their instrument makes millions of impressions on TV viewers every day. And yes, they sometimes work in just their underwear, or perhaps a robe and slippers, nursing a cup of coffee. […]
They’re never seen, only heard. Often, they become a singular part of a local TV station’s brand. Mostly, they toil away in anonymity although their instrument makes millions of impressions on TV viewers every day.
And yes, they sometimes work in just their underwear, or perhaps a robe and slippers, nursing a cup of coffee.
“Not typically,” says Shelley Duffy, “maybe on a Saturday morning.”
They’re announcers, voice-over artists, audio presenters, and sometimes, carnival barkers, all bringing to life the words that someone else they’ve never met has written for them.
Every local TV station has one, or more. Typically under contract, often working with the station for years, they become the voice of the station, heard throughout the day enticing viewers to watch the news coming up or in the news open, announcing it’s time for the news.
They’re paid according to how often a station needs their services. If you need them every day to do daily news topicals, that’s going to cost you.
They can live anywhere where there’s an internet connection and cell phone reception. You e-mail them the copy. They record it and e-mail back the audio file. In minutes if necessary.
They service markets large, medium and small, and many work from home.
“It doesn’t matter the market size,” says Marc Preston who lives in New Orleans, “I have no preference. I treat them all the same way. And I like working out of my house.
Preston says he has a couple dozen local TV station clients spread out over a number of different broadcast groups, like Nexstar, Gray, Gannett and Sinclair.
Here’s a promo with Marc Preston as announcer.
“I work at a studio,” says Steve Stone, who lives in Pittsburgh, “so I can wear regular people’s clothes.”
Stone’s clients include mostly local TV stations but he has been the topical announcer for CNN for the past 7 years.
“It’s a nice cross-section of stations–Boston, Miami, Pittsburgh, a lot of Hearst stations.”
Here’s a news promo that features Steve Stone’s voice.
While most local TV stations use men as their go-to announcers, some stations occasionally use a woman’s voice.
Shelley Duffy also lives in Pittsburgh and thinks there ought to be more women as local TV announcers.
“I do, if you listen, most are men. Stations go for the deep, booming voice because they think it’s more believable. I don’t buy that. It would be a wonderful opportunity to hear women be the voice of some of these stations.”
Her argument makes sense when you consider that many local TV stations specifically target women with children as their target demo. Some have been known to display cardboard cut-outs of these mythical women with the kids in the newsroom as a reminder.
“If stations used women more,” says Duffy, “it would be so different that people would take notice.”
Duffy does some work for stations in Rochester, Virginia Beach, West Palm, and Raleigh.
Here’s an example of Shelley Duffy’s work.
Whether a man or woman, announcers says the hardest part of their job is the constant need for their availability.
Duffy checks e-mail non-stop.
“You can’t get sick,” says Stone. “If my kids get sick, I wrap myself in cellophane and stay in the basement.”
Preston laughs when he says, “it’s tough to take a vacation.”
Another example from Marc Preston.
But reading the words someone else wrote from a city far away can also present challenges.
Not all announcers like or have time to be phone directed, coached, or monitored while recording.
“I love it when they say, try it this way,” says Duffy. But she cautions against micro-managing every word.
Another example from Shelley Duffy.
“I’ll know roughly what kind of read they’re looking for,” says Preston, who says he studies the station to understand their brand.
“But I crave direction. When they say, ‘give me gritty’, I know what they mean.”
“This really is acting,” says Stone, “there’s no other way to describe it. Sometimes you have to be scary, nice, concerned, happy, overjoyed. We’re acting out the emotions of these stories.”
Another example from Steve Stone.
What’s the mortal sin that writers out there should be aware of when it comes to announcers?
Too much copy.
“When talking to young preditors,” says Preston, “I go, ‘oh, this is kind of thick’. It’s 35-seconds. I can make it fit in 30, but it may have a motor mouth sounding read.”
“More time to insert my personality,” says Duffy, “to be conversational, and talk like I would talk to anybody.”
But Duffy realizes not every script calls for that.
“When it’s well-written,” says Preston, “I don’t have to worry about time. A great script reads itself.”
But can voice-over sessions go bad? Here are two examples, one an infamous example of a session about peas with Orson Welles. The other is a clip of a William Shatner session that Howard Stern featured on his show.