As a twenty-five-year-old at WTOP in 1972, I had the pleasure of working with Dave McConnell, who was then anchoring the afternoon drive-time broadcasts. Joking with the new kid in the newsroom, Dave said, “Bob, if you’re going to make it in this business, you have to have an act.” He used two of our WTOP colleagues as examples: sportscaster Warner Wolf, whose distinctive style made him the most popular broadcasting personality in Washington at the time, and features reporter Doug Llewellyn, who later became Judge Wapner’s announcer on TV’s The People’s Court.
“Look at Warner,” Dave instructed, “He’s got an act. And Doug, he’s got an act. Bob, you’ve just got to get an act.”
“Okay, Dave,” I replied, “Here’s my act. My act is to be the guy without an act.”
Dave said, “You can’t have that act because it’s already taken—that’s my act.” Dave is a solid reporter who never needed an act. All these years later, he remains with WTOP, covering Capitol Hill.
Dave was kidding, of course. No one successful in radio or TV news has an act. Listeners and viewers respond to people who are just being themselves. Wolf and Llewellyn were effective on the air, but it was a product of their personalities. They weren’t acting. They spoke the same way off the air as they did on the air.
A comedian once wondered if TV anchors spoke in private as they do on the air. He imitated David Brinkley, who had an unusual cadence