Five mornings a week, Paul Gerke performs typical morning-anchor duties as part of the Today in Arizona team on TEGNA’s 12 News in Phoenix. But on some Fridays, he steps away at 6 a.m. and delivers a segment of his own — Paul’s Extra Point — that is resonating on social media by breaking away from the standard TV formula.
The segment delves at length into topics from gun violence to sports to immigration, or whatever else Gerke thinks is important enough to deserve a hefty three minutes. But Paul’s Extra Point goes well beyond analysis and into commentary. Forget the impartial anchor who sees two sides to every story. For Gerke, one of them is often the wrong side.
For example, in ‘Diabetes Shouldn’t Be a Death Sentence,’ Gerke rails about drug companies making billions at the expense of diabetics, some of whom admit to rationing insulin because they can’t afford the proper dosage.
And later, he says that regulating prescription drug prices should be Congress’s top priority.
Paul’s Extra Point has found a home on multiple social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, generating thousands of views. Gerke believes that’s because Millennials and Gen-Zers are looking for a change in how news is presented.
“They don’t want to be talked down to by some fancy dressed man or woman who is more attractive than they’ll ever be and makes more money then they’ll ever make, and they’re sitting in their ivory tower and telling them what the news is and how it should affect them,” Gerke said. They want a conversation.
Gerke doesn’t use a neutral ‘anchor voice’ when delivering the segment. It’s more passionate. He said he wants to show the viewers that he has an emotional connection to the story just as much as they might. “It’s supposed to be a conversation starter between you at home and us here in the studio to let you know that our lives are impacted by these events in the same ways that yours are. We’re people too.”
Gerke’s not the only TEGNA anchor who’s pushing beyond the limits of local TV conventions. We’ve written about KUSA Denver’s Next with Kyle Clark, featuring an anchor who ignores many conventional breaking-news stories and delivers the news with an informal and irreverent ‘tell it like it is’ approach. Gerke knows that he’s coloring outside the lines for a TV news anchor. “We’re still a broadcasting entity that owes you the truth. We’re just finding different ways to present it,” he said. “I don’t think of it as much as commentary in my own head, as I think of it as an appeal to reason.”
Do you know an anchor, reporter or meteorologist who is using social media to engage with his or her viewers and deserves to be our next Social Media Spotlight? If so, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll check them out.