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Bye-Bye to the TV News Tie

For the past year or so, I’ve been warning my male anchor clients to get ready to lose the tie. Now, it has finally happened. The New York Times reports that KNBC news anchor David Ushery is going tie-less on his weekend broadcast as a way of attracting viewers who have drifted away to other media. The Times goes on about how this transition will be difficult for men of a certain generation. Nonsense. Casual attire now is the prevailing custom in most US businesses and TV news was slow to change, at least on the male side. It’s time.Here in Los Angeles, it’s not unusual to see female news readers in attire that looks more like lingerie. Even Megyn Kelly, the “it” gal of the moment on the Fox News Channel, regularly bares her arms and a lot more. Even in the heartland or the deep south, figure-flattering knit tops have become a standard alternative to a business suit for female talent. However, the sleek, contemporary look for women appears completely mismatched when paired with a man in a suit that Don Draper might wear on Mad Men.

Then there’s the temperature factor. When I was hosting on the network that eventually became MSNBC, our boss Roger Ailes, preferred a meat-locker temperature in the studio. He said the freezing air helped keep the guests from falling asleep under the toasty lights, it also kept Roger comfortable in his wool suit. (His interview program aired right after the show I did with Chris Matthews on America’s Talking). Female hosts like me, who even had lights pointed at our exposed legs, just had to freeze and bear it. On KTLA, Hal Fishman kept the studio so cold that my predecessor, Jan Carl, had to keep a portable heater under the desk. During my tenure on KTLA News at Ten, I’d shiver through the show until I couldn’t even feel my legs anymore, and then run to my car and turn the heater up. Allowing the men to lose the multi-layer business suit means that studios can be a more tolerable atmosphere for everyone.
So, guys, get ready to take the tie off. And get to the gym ASAP. Because soon you’ll be losing the jacket, too. Put on a fitted polo shirt and let us see your guns. As we move into the delivery of news on mobile multimedia platforms, people want to see someone they’d meet at Starbucks for a coffee, not a guy in a throwback business suit announcing the headlines from the mountain top.

Judging from the picture at the top of this post, Mr. Ushery could still use some advice on appearance. The black-white contrast is a bit stark and not flattering to a person of color. The business suit may be about to go the way of the dinosaur, but there are still rules for what looks good on camera. You want to keep your credibility while becoming more casual, comfortable and connected to the viewrs.

To learn how to make your talent more effective when presenting the news in multimedia, please visit my web site, http://www.terryanzur.com/, register and schedule your coaching visit today!

  • Mel Gunasekera

    Good one Terry

  • Terry

    thanks Mel!

  • Shady Del Knight

    Hi, Terry! I just discovered your blog and I look forward to following it.

    I was a news anchor at a station in a top 40 market and a producer at two others in a top 10 market. I have been observing the trends in television news for more than 50 years.

    This post of yours put me in touch with my Mad Men era sensibilities. I have always had a strong dislike for female anchors wearing blazers, preferring instead that they be allowed to wear smart yet feminine attire. In other words I fully support a woman's right to bare arms. I have no problem with Robin Meade and other intelligent female news readers who accentuate rather than play down their physical attributes. At the same time I can't get used to the idea of a new normal in which the male anchor will no longer wear a tie. When I watch the news the male anchor's credibility is irrevocably linked to that item of apparel which, as you know, is a traditional symbol of power and authority.

    Thank you, Terry, for allowing me to jump in late and express my old school opinions.

  • Terry

    Thanks for your comment. I think there is no such thing as "one size fits all." I suggest traditional business attire when I am teaching at a atartup network overseas that is trying to build credibility. On the other hand, if a station is trying to connect with a younger, "business casual" audience on multiple platforms, it may be more appropriate to lose the tie. The important thing is to know your objectives and dress accordingly.