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Why Do News Anchors All Talk the Same?
Still of Will Ferrell in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
Credit: Dreamworks

Whether you're watching CBS News, CNN or even the satirical Onion News Network, news anchors always sound pretty much the same. With that exaggerated lilt, those vocal cliffhangers and all-American accents, it's as if they all went to school to learn "talking head diction."

Well, turns out, a lot of them did. Most broadcaster training programs offer courses devoted to teaching future announcers how to speak in that instantly recognizable style.

The main quality of "the voice" is that it must contain no traces of regionalism, said Amy Caples, a former news anchor who teaches voice classes in the broadcasting program at Temple University in Philadelphia.

"The thing about working on TV in news, sports or entertainment is it's a very vagabond lifestyle, and if you're going to be successful at it, you'll be moving all over the place. To get a job somewhere you have to sound literally like you're from nowhere," Caples told Life's Little Mysteries. "They're not going to hire you in Yuma, Arizona, if you talk like you're from the Bronx."

Another reason why news anchors share speech patterns is that they are all taught to use standard broadcasting English, a form of pronunciation in which no letters are dropped. For example, they must always say "fishing," not "fishin'." They also speak more slowly than people do in daily life in order to be easily understandable, Caples said.

There's the added fact that most broadcasters are emulating the voices of their role models, and so speech patterns get passed down. "I think there's a lot of patterning," she said. "If you've grown up listening to a certain anchor, or admire someone on TV, then there's a subconscious effort to mirror that. A lot of women want to sound like Oprah, for example; she has a great voice."

Not all modern-day broadcasters believe in the value of "the voice," and it may be fading out among radio announcers. Adamic, a radio host at KOHL 89.3 in California who goes only by his last name and teaches classes in the broadcasting program at Ohlone College, said, "The days of the big announcer voice [said in a big announcer voice] went away a long time ago. The goal of radio now is to just sound like a person just somebody's friend, keeping them company as they drive to work." [Radio DJs Stay On Air For More Than 2 Days ]

Rather than having an authoritative voice, these days broadcast journalism is all about being relatable, he said. "Our thing is, if someone is doing a big voice we immediately say, 'Hey, cut it out, just be a real person. You're going to alienate your listeners.'"

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