1. Knowledge base:
An understanding of issues, names, geography, history and the ability to put all of these in perspective for viewers. It comes from the journalist’s commitment to being a student of the news.
2. Ability to process new information:
Sorting, organizing, prioritizing and retaining massive amounts of incoming data.
3. Ethical compass:
Sensitivity to ethical land mines that often litter the field of live breaking news — unconfirmed information, graphic video, words that potentially panic, endanger public safety or security or words that add pain to already traumatized victims and those who care about them.
4. Command of the language:
Dead-on grammar, syntax, pronunciation, tone and storytelling — no matter how stressed or tired the anchor or reporter may be.
5. Interviewing finesse:
An instinct for what people need and want to know, for what elements are missing from the story, and the ability to draw information by skillful, informed questioning and by listening.
6. Mastery of multitasking:
The ability to simultaneously: take in a producer’s instructions via an earpiece while scanning new information from computer messages, texts or Twitter; listen to what other reporters on the team are sharing and interviewees are adding; monitor incoming video — and yes, live-tweet info to people who have come to expect information in multiple formats.
7. Appreciation of all roles:
An understanding of the tasks and technology that go into the execution of a broadcast, the ability to roll with changes and glitches, and anticipate all other professionals involved.
8. Acute sense of timing:
The ability to condense or expand one’s speech on demand, to sense when a story needs refreshing or recapping, to know without even looking at a clock how many words are needed to fill the minute while awaiting a satellite window, live feed or interviewee.