0203-Feature-TV anchors_Blog

Protecting heart health is a crucial message for newscaster Katie Kenney.

The television host and producer for WDTN Channel 2 in Dayton, Ohio, has lost most of her extended family to heart attacks and other complications of heart disease. She’s careful to make good lifestyle choices to minimize her own risks.

On Friday, Kenney’s newsroom, like many others, will be raising awareness about heart disease and stroke in women by wearing red for the American Heart Association’s National Wear Red Day. Last year, more than 550 national and local anchors wore red in support of the campaign.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. To educate women about their risk of heart disease, the AHA started the Go Red For Women initiative in 2004.

“Everyone at our station knows someone who has been affected by heart disease,” said Kenney, who emcees an annual Go Red luncheon. “Wearing red bands us together as an organization and with our community to show solidarity in fighting heart disease.”

Hosts and anchors for Univision's Despierta América.

Hosts and anchors for Univision’s Despierta América.

Red is a powerful color when it comes to broadcast news. News programs regularly use it for graphics during breaking news to quickly communicate urgency, said Chris Archer, a senior vice president and senior consultant with international media research and consulting firm SmithGeiger.

“It is something that will stand out and be noticed and will be effective,” Archer said.

The visual impact of an entire news team wearing red can pack a punch, in part because of the boldness of the color but also because it is a break from the normal routine, Archer said, pointing to the NFL’s efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer each October.

“All players have on some sort of pink – gloves, socks or other part of their uniform – and that extends to the sidelines with the coaches,” he said. “It really does call attention to the issue.”

Like professional athletes, TV anchors are considered role models to a large degree, Archer said.

“They are that trusted source in many communities, and even celebrities to some extent. What they do, what they say and how they look really does matter to the person who is watching them and is a fan,” he said.

Anchors for NBC 10 News in Philadelphia.

Anchors for NBC 10 News in Philadelphia.

Wearing red is an especially powerful tool for female broadcasters, whose appearance is far more scrutinized than their male counterparts, said Betsi Grabe, associate dean at Indiana University’s Media School. She said the way audiences now consume news has significantly changed how they connect with broadcasters.

The increase in banter and personal stories shared by broadcast journalists on-air and via social media reinforces a para-social relationship and results in stronger bonds with viewers, Grabe said.

“We view [anchors] as experts, but we are increasingly viewing them as human beings who we relate to, and that’s why they carry so much weight,” she said.

Kenney said the thrust of red across newscasts signals unity, reinforcing the heart health message viewers may come across throughout the day, in workplaces and elsewhere.

“When our team all wears red, its gets the audience talking,” Kenney said. “It comes across that we’re all standing up against heart disease.”