Relatable Channel 3 co-anchor has average-Joe appeal


Easy ... eaaasy ... eaaaaasy.

That's -- how to put this? -- how easy it is to watch the 5/11 p.m. co-anchor on KVBC-TV, Channel 3. Remember 7-Up billing itself "the Un-Cola," a light, crisp alternative to syrupy, oversweetened Coca-Cola?

Jim Snyder is the Un-Anchor. It makes him one of the best -- and, in a shape-shifting mediascape, most valuable -- in town.

Oracle-style anchors preaching from their news-desk pulpits, lampooned by fictional blowhards from Ted Baxter through Ron Burgundy, are close to joining the dinosaurs -- The TV-Rex, if you will, or Anchorus Exterminus. As a recent New York Times article noted, whether accelerated by media revolution, audience attrition or economic recession, "longtime local anchors are a dying breed." So is their M.O.

And the newscasts they rule face stark stats: A Pew Research Center study finds that generally across the country, late night newscasts attract around 12 percent of the audience, down from 21 percent 10 years ago. (In fairness, newspapers are on the same depressing spiral.) While ratings slowly dwindle, alternative news outlets crowd cyberspace as viewers assemble their own news fix, no longer owing allegiance to the Official Givers of News.

But some anchors still pack that you-don't-know-the-news-till-we-tell-it-to-you 'tude. They're like the quarterback and the head cheerleader at a school reunion, stuck in time, oblivious that they're no longer the cool kids. But Snyder seems like the guy who was -- as was true for most of us -- neither nerd nor prom king, gifted with an average-Joe appeal. He speaks the news, rather than performs it. He talks to us, not at us.

As studies also conclude that anchors remain the primary draw for viewers -- despite all that promotional braying over "Action"-oriented, "Eyewitness"-accurate, "news comes first" news teams -- Snyder's the model on which TV News: The Next Generation should be based.

Understatement is easily overlooked, but essential in a revamped paradigm in which the Internet democratizes and demystifies media, and younger, savvier viewers hip to pretense can smell the bovine waste wafting off newscasters still vaguely Baxter-ish and Burgundy-like.

Relatable qualities such as Snyder's are intangible. Analyzing them is as fruitless as nailing Jell-O to a wall. He's got it, period.

But station execs, superattuned to how personalities come across oncamera, should shift emphasis to anchors who are socially inviting, rather than physically striking -- the latter quality no longer as necessary for watchability as Joe Schmos and Plain Janes overrun reality TV. (What is news if not the ultimate reality?)

That's not to imply Snyder isn't TV-handsome -- he is, but in an easygoing style that doesn't put distance between anchor and audience.

The media-viewer dynamic is leveling out, so dump the Voice From On High for a voice that's on par.

The Voice of the Un-Anchor.

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

 

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