From Radio to TV

Keeping the daily posts going this week.

In this part of the interview, Toni Marie starts about the differences she found when switching from radio to TV. Also mentions how they are unique when it comes to how the teleprompter works.  People at other stations will be surprised at that one.

But we start off with the day she went in for a job interview with NTV.


TONI: I was quite nervous since didn’t know if I was a television kind of person. Radio as you know is so much freer in many ways.

In many ways you can be more expressive physically than you can on TV. On TV people can see if you talk with your hands a lot. In radio they don’t see that.

One of the first things I had to do was read news on camera. I’d read news but never from a teleprompter. And the teleprompter that day wasn’t working. So, I had to kind of cheat. Where you look down and look up at the same time. Of course I didn’t have any experience in that. So, I thought I had done a terrible job.

But the next day they called and offered me the job. I guess they saw some potential and nearly twenty years later I’m still there.

ROB:    I’ve used the teleprompter a couple of times when I took TV broadcasting at Algonquin College in Ottawa.  Have a few memories of when the teleprompter would break down. And then we’d have to do exactly what you said, read off the script.

TONI:   In many stations they have an auto-cue person. A a tech person who controls the teleprompter for the news anchors. Which means somebody else controls the pace of your reading.

People who have worked at other television stations and come to work for us find our set up very peculiar and aren’t used to it.

At our station we get to control it ourselves. I control the speed myself. And I find it works quite well, because I read a lot faster than most people. I’m not waiting or anticipating when the teleprompter or auto queue is going to move.

Also it gives you something to do with your hands when you’re on television. As I said, you can’t talk with your hands like you do in radio so it gives you something to hold when you’re there. That’s the one thing people say when I interview them is, “What do I do with my hands?”

When you’re anchoring a newscast at our station at least you have that problem solved for you.

ROB:    What was the hardest part of the transition from radio to TV when you started? I guess it’s getting used to people recognizing you on the street instead of by your voice.

TONI:   Well, yes, a lot of that. And also in radio you don’t really have to dress up.

A lot of what I’d done in radio was overnights when there isn’t a lot of management around. They don’t care if you wear blue jeans and a T-shirt. You can’t wear that when you’re on television anchoring the news.

Radio is live and television is live, but they can see terror on your face. You can hide nervousness fairly well on the radio. You can’t on TV.

And it’s all those sorts of things that you don’t really pick up until you see yourself television. “Why do I tilt my head when I ask a question? That looks so foolish.”

I still love radio and a lot of the time I miss it. Radio is more personal in many ways. When people listen to their favorite radio announcer they really feel a warm, fuzzy connection to that voice.

When you’re on television they kind of view you in a different way. Many times over the years I have felt as if I’m just the person in a box. And when I’m in public and people look at me sometimes they don’t say, “Hi” to me. They stand a couple of feet away and talk about me to their friends, in a polite way. But as if I can’t really hear them, because I’m still inside this box.

ROB:    I’ve heard stories over the years of people phoning various TV stations and instead of talking about the stories their comments are on the person’s hair or the wardrobe.

TONI:   That happens a lot. I like to think that I don’t know why they do that. But I do that as well, if I’m watching a television show. I might say, “Ooh, I don’t like that dress that that woman is wearing.” But when it happens to me, I get kind of offended or bothered by it. I guess it’s just human nature.

And I think we have to understand that if we want people to welcome us into their homes that we are opening ourselves up to so much more than that.

If we are trying to make a personal connection in our program, we then have to accept the fact that they’re going to be quite personal with us.

But, it can be tough. You really have to develop a thick skin. And I still don’t have a thick skin.

So, if somebody calls and they say they didn’t like my hair. It really bothers me. I laugh it off and I say, “Okay, I’ll style it differently tomorrow.” When I have naturally curly hair, but I straighten it most often for television, because it just looks nicer.

But every now and then I will wear my hair curly. Once a gentleman sent me a comb in the mail and asked that I comb my hair.

ROB:     Ooh.

TONI:   I was devastated. But I’m sure he meant it in the nicest of ways. And if he had seen my actual reaction he probably would have felt bad. You have to realize that people really don’t mean any harm. And when they give you criticism they really mean it to be constructive criticism.

They may think they’re talking to their friend. “Hey, that’s Toni Marie. She’s in my living room every night. She’s been there for twenty years. I think I have the right to tell her if her hair is bad.” You have to try and get over it.

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