Cruise control: Secrets of a TV news anchor
On the NBC 29 news, Kristina Cruise appears unflappable. But newscasters aren't born knowing how to look natural in front of the camera, and Cruise has mastered some TV tricks of the trade.
For instance, where to point while reporting the weather in front of a blank green screen. (There are smaller screens to the side with the map– but she can't appear to be looking toward them.)
Or what to do if she has to "float a story–" TV lingo for when the story next on her script is dropped and she not only has to find another one further down but also find the right camera, all while she's on the air. (Pause, look down, take a breather, she suggests.)
Or the appropriate expression for delivering serious news without looking too stern– or too happy. ("You don't want to look grim," she advises.)
The motivation for mastering all these skills is very basic. "It's amazing what you'll do to not look stupid," she says.
Cruise came to Charlottesville from a tiny Tennessee station where she did it all: produced, reported, did weather, and anchored an hour-long local news show every day. And after working full time at the station, she'd work four more hours on a local shopping show to earn extra money.
NBC 29 hired her to do weekend weather in 2003. "I think a lot of reporters don't do weather," she says. "They're intimidated by the green screen."
Cruise took the noon and 5pm anchor job in September. Despite experience in radio, she didn't always have that "coming-up-on-news-at-6" anchor voice. "When I came here, [former news director] Dave Cupp told me I didn't have a good voice," she recalls– so she took voice lessons.
She debunks the popular belief that the camera adds 10 pounds. "I think it adds 20 pounds," declares Cruise, a size 4 with a tiny waist. A less-than-tactful viewer once told her she looked heavy doing the weather.
Cruise is pale– so pale she wears make-up about five shades darker than it should be, and she has lowlights put in her blonde hair so it isn't blinding on the air. "It's my Polish background," she says.
Her career path was set in the 8th grade when she visited a technology high school in her hometown in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the school had a news show. "That's when I thought 'That's what I want to do.'"
She auditioned for the anchor spot but didn't get it. "A friend said, 'Oh, sweetie, that's not for you,'" Cruise recalls. "I spent the next 12 years proving her wrong."
Cruise clears up one common misperception viewers have about people on TV: "They think we really care how we look," she says. "We don't. It's just part of our job. You see me in the grocery, you're not going to like what you see."
Requirements to look mah-velous aside, Cruise is serious about reporting good-news stories, and she won a Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters Award last year for one of her features.
"I'm the luckiest person in the world," she proclaims. "I wake up and can't believe dreams can come true."
Age: What's your guess?
Why here? I read a book in college called How to be a TV Reporter. It named NBC 29 one of the best small-market stations in the country.
What's worst about living here? No beaches nearby (Lake Monticello doesn't count).
Favorite hangout? Vivace
Most overrated virtue? Courage
People would be surprised to know: If it were up to me, my hair would still be two feet long and perfectly straight.
What would you change about yourself? I would love to be a morning person and to feel great after five or six hours of sleep.
Proudest accomplishment? Being an anchor for NBC 29 News
People find most annoying about you: I am way too gullible.
Whom do you admire? Oprah Winfrey. She's an incredible woman and an unprecedented journalist.
Favorite book? The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, by Dr. Joseph Murphy
Subject that causes you to rant? How wasteful we have become as a society. How unappreciative we are of all that we have.
Biggest 21st-century thrill? Cheap plane tickets
Biggest 21st-century creep out? The way computers can be used to invade our privacy
What do you drive? Jeep Cherokee. Anybody want to trade for a hybrid?
In your car CD player right now: Etta James
Next journey? I would love to be a foreign correspondent and tell important human interest stories from faraway lands. The world is so much bigger than the United States.
Most trouble you've ever gotten in? The day I learned, "The mic is always hot!"
Regret: Worrying too much about little things that never matter in the end
Favorite comfort food: Fettuccine Alfredo
Always in your refrigerator: Condiments– every imaginable condiment
Must-see TV: The Daily Show
Favorite cartoon: Toss-up between Garfield and The Flintstones
Describe a perfect day. Sand, sun, and a margarita
Walter Mitty fantasy: To be a wildly famous soap opera star
Who'd play you in the movie? Nicole Kidman
Most embarrassing moment? Giggling in the middle of reading a funeral announcement on the air in Tennessee. The man's nickname was "Toot," and my co-anchor slipped it in the news copy at the last minute without telling me. He started laughing first, and it was all downhill from there. It was more than just embarrassing– it was publicly humiliating.
Best advice you ever got? If you can believe it, you can achieve it. Or my version of it: "Fake it till you make it."
Favorite bumper sticker? "Women are great leaders, and you are following one right now."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO