Notice how more and more North American news anchors are breaking out from the broadcasters’ mold to embark on a fluid journey of self branding and editorial positioning? Audiences are discovering just how thoughtful these announcers are about the current affairs developing around them. Still, there was a time when the news anchor garnered respect for holding it down. These journalists presented the news; they didn’t react to it. Or at least that’s how it was in theory. In reality, though, everyone knows to share is human.
Video clip of Lloyd Robertson’s final day as CTV’s chief news anchor, September 1, 2011.1
In my twenties, still smelling a little like journalism school, I became increasingly aware of something Lloyd Robertson did during Canada’s late-night, national newscast. It happened as the program wrapped up; after the last news report and right before the anchor’s popular, “And that’s the kind of day it’s been” sign-off.
A little background: As a Cegep kid, I grew accustomed to seeing my father read the newspaper by day and by late evening sit through CTV National News, hosted by Lloyd Robertson, chief anchor and senior editor. I believed this journalist was the one chosen to inform my father and millions of other Canadians on the day’s events. My dad, in turn, seemed reassured each time the nation’s most-trusted news anchor was faithfully on the job. Given how many years Robertson presided over the national broadcast, my hotly opinionated dad never uttered a critical word about his way of reporting.
One day I noticed that, in those few seconds after the news program’s last report, Robertson did this thing where he would react. In other words, he gave audiences a glimpse into how he felt about the news just shared. He accomplished this in the pursing of his lips and in the slight shake of his head. If the report had been disturbing or tragic he might do this silently. If the report was uplifting, even fascinating, Robertson chuckled. Did he always do this, I wondered? More and more, he offered up un-teleprompted words. These comments were sometimes safe such as, “remarkable story” and other times they were thoughtful.
Those reactions, although subtle and seemingly insignificant, were slim peeks inside Canada’s venerable broadcaster—an anchorman whose most recognizable role for 35 years straight is a word that means, “something that serves to hold an object firmly.”2
Robertson retired the CTV anchor chair in 2011 and a year later he released his memoir, The Kind of Life It’s Been. In speaking with talk-show host George Stroumboulopoulos on writing the book, the 78-year-old journalist (now reporting for W5) admitted he wasn’t used to talking about himself 3. Fair enough. He rose to fame in an era when no one cared what journalists thought or how they experienced the very news they reported. How times have changed.