The Age of the Anchor could be nearing its twilight

Setting sail while dropping anchor?

Laws of seamanship aside, that’s a scenario worth examining as News-3 watches Kendall Tenney about to disembark.

The 15-year vet departs Dec. 23 as his contract expires and he moves onto opening his own PR firm. “It’s the right time and the right move for me,” says Tenney, who’ll appear periodically on “Wake Up with the Wagners” to share stories of the Make A Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada, which he chairs.

“I have five kids to feed, so I made sure a Plan B was in place in case Plan A” — that would be contract talks — “didn’t go well,” he says. “And as I developed Plan B, it became Plan A.” Station GM Lisa Howfield praised Tenney’s service, adding: “Money plays into everything now, but this was a mutual thing. He told us about the firm he wants to open.”

Vacating his 4 and 6 p.m. co-anchor spots — and with the position remaining empty — Tenney leaves behind a now nearly ubiquitous Jim Snyder, who’ll join Sophia Choi at 6 p.m., piling onto his 5 and 11 p.m. duties, plus his 10 p.m. chores on KTUD. Choi will handle 4 p.m. solo.

Tenney exits after ex-anchor Mitch Truswell, whose contract wasn’t renewed earlier this year.

Looking through a longer lens, a dwindling anchor staff dovetails into a developing industry trend.

Stations nationwide are tossing anchors overboard, their substantial salaries a drain on strained budgets, their stock slipping in many newsrooms as execs turn maximizing resources into an even holier grail. A salary of a single anchor who is largely a news reader could be redistributed to pay for several news reporters. Or current anchors — say, Snyder, Choi, Sue Manteris, et al. — could be redeployed as correspondents.

Envision anchorless newscasts as a round robin of reporters file speedier but meatier stories, saving minutes by providing their own setups and handoffs as scrolling graphics handle ambulance-chaser accidents, pro forma court appearances and police-blotter entries. Gone will be the manufactured, authoritative aura imposed by anchors, a comforting familiarity to older audiences that newer viewers don’t necessarily value as they virtually inhale information.

(Also vanishing would be those silly conversations where reporters, rather than completely covering all story angles themselves, must answer an anchor’s staged question to make the latter appear involved.)

Despite its “social networking” description, those components — Twitter, Blackberrys, Facebook, iPhones, etc. — mainly enable the rapid exchange of information sans a middleman. TV’s middleman is the anchor. As stations beef up their Web sites, Internet news seekers choose links for stories and video, skipping an anchor’s talky runup. These are also the next-gen viewers who’ll bring the same speed needs to the tube.

Trusted faces — Paula Francis and Gary Waddell at Channel 8 or the shrinking crew at News-3 — do emotionally bond a station to an audience, as do anchors’ community involvement, such as Tenney’s laudable charitable work. But news consumption is poised to overtake news personalities as local news’ prime ingredient, the pace trumping the face.

Amid that sea change, stations could drop anchors to sail on.

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

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