How local news anchors keep their hair classy

From left, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell and Will Ferrell in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues."
From left, Paul Rudd, David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Steve Carell and Will Ferrell in "Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues." Paramount Pictures

Ron Burgundy is “kind of a big deal” – an unequivocal statement coming from the anchorman himself amid his return to the big screen.

The fictitious newsman ventured into the round-the-clock news era in “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” released in theaters on Wednesday. Before that, Emerson College in Boston renamed its communication school after Will Ferrell’s character for a day, while Burgundy diversified his brand by representing Dodge Durango. And it seems that the ’70s-tastic anchorman has familiarized himself with social media, recently tweeting a #NotSoHumbleBrag: “The Newseum in Washington DC is featuring an exhibit on me. Not Brokaw or Cronkite. ME.”

In a trailer for the movie, Burgundy says God has put him on Earth to “have salon-quality hair and read the news.” So how would Burgundy fare in today’s broadcast news environment – one where high-definition television leaves little room for flaws and fly-aways?

Boston University journalism Professor Joe Bergantino – a longtime investigative reporter at Boston CBS affiliate WBZ-TV, who is now the director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting – recalls a time when his station brought in a hair consultant.

“He looked at me and asked if my dark brown hair was my true hair color,” Bergantino says. “I told him yes. He advised me to dye my hair gray so my hair would be more consistent with my age. I told him he was crazy.”

Celebrity stylist James Cornwell ( tells the newscasters he works with to make sure their hair isn’t “too set” or sprayed down with product because that tends to look fake, especially on men.

Fly-away hair also never looks good on camera, Cornwell adds, so having good product is key.

“HD catches everything, and lighting will make the smallest fly-away look like a huge mistake,” he says.

Get my best side

Everybody has a “good side,” though some are blessed with two good sides, Cornwell says. Most people – when they have a camera on them, whether it’s during a photo shoot or for live television – are naturally more comfortable on one side, Cornwell says.

“Most of the time the ‘best side’ is just in their head, but if they feel good about it, you’re going to get a good shot,” he says, adding that makeup can do wonders for finding “the good side.”

“Most faces are not completely symmetrical,” Cornwell says. “Most of us have an eye that’s a little lower, an eyebrow that’s a different shape, or a cheekbone that is lower than the other. A good makeup artist can balance this. We can fix eyebrows, we can balance cheeks, we can even give you a whole different nose and face shape with some good contouring.”

Caleb James, a reporter for KOB Eyewitness News 4 in Albuquerque, N.M., says he’s heard the jokes and jabs about TV reporters preening or being shallow.

“That’s a stereotype,” James says. “We don’t get hired because we’re babes. We get hired because we’re smart. I have met some of the most incredibly talented, incredibly sharp and immensely intelligent people working in this business. The attention we pay to our looks is a pointed effort to keep our looks downstage and the information in the spotlight.”

On-air trial and error

He says learning what looks good on TV requires a little trial and error.

When it comes to makeup, James wears a tinted moisturizer, powder foundation, draws in his eyebrows because he’s a natural blond and uses a brown mascara.

“This seems kind of counterintuitive, but for true HD 1080i, you wear less makeup than you do in standard definition – but you have to be more artful about how you apply it,” he says.

James also has watched himself on TV to take note of what works best.

Hairy risks

James took a risk with his image back in October 2012 and colored his light blond hair a shade of brown. At the time, he was reporting for a station in Idaho, and it’s rare for those in the TV news business to dramatically change their appearance mid-contract. However, his natural hair color caused him to look “washed out” on live shots. Before making the decision, James says he consulted with a well-respected Denver-area agent who is good at her job. And, he figured, the longer he waited to make the change the more recognizable he’d become as a blond.

“We didn’t end up working together, but she was very generous with lots of free advice,” he says. “So I took it and used it.”

James says he likes how the darker hair color comes across on television – but parting with his natural hair color was difficult. A few viewers even called in to say they missed his blond hair.

In general, though, his brown hair has been well-received.

“The thing is, when I had my natural platinum blond hair, viewers seemed to be talking a lot about my hair, whether it was positive or negative,” he says. “Now, I hear more feedback about my stories, instead of my mane. That’s a good thing.”