How difficult is it to read the news? The BBC's political editor Andrew Marr has suggested newsreaders are overpaid for merely reading an autocue. Jon Yuill, a regular contributor to The Magazine, says it's child's play. And here's the proof.
It's with some amusement that I have been keeping abreast of the news of the news this week. That is, the sudden outpouring of angst at the disclosure that many of our top newsreaders are on salaries more akin to a Chelsea centreback.
Outraged TV viewers, and "frontline" broadcast reporters, have asked just why these alleged inflated salaries are given for a job that "isn't work" and "requires no brain", to quote the BBC's John Humphrys - himself a former newsreader.
"Anyone could do that," the cry goes up. So I thought I'd test this assumption with a recently acquired bit of gadgetry, a nifty little camcorder. I actually bought it because, being a commuter, I wanted something to remember the kids by, as I barely see them.
I thought the camcorder perfect for my newsreader audition.
After starting with a little weather, she touches on the war '...before you were born', then some frightful business with chewing gum
It was then I discovered two incontrovertible facts.
1. Point a camcorder at an adult and you're likely to get a blunt request to go away.
2. Aim it at a child and you've found yourself another Shirley Temple. In my case, it was my little girl Martha, just turned five. (Ok, I admit Jeremy Beadle beat me to it with this conclusion.)
I gave her no indication of what I wanted her to do; simply turned the camera on and away she went, into newsreader mode. The sound is a little fuzzy, but the gist is that after starting with a little weather, she touches on the war (not sure which one) but it happened "...before you were born"; then on to some frightful business with chewing gum.
Where she got it from, I don't know. It couldn't have been listening to me, because although I share her views on gum, there wasn't a single mention of the blasted trains. So stand aside Jon Snow, eat your heart out Fiona Bruce: news reading... it's child's play!
Anyone who wants a go at reading the news for themselves should look out for BBC News and Sport On Tour over the summer, a behind-the-scenes roadshow which will give people a chance to sit in front of the camera.
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Cute as Martha's effort is, it doesn't really answer the question of how easy it is to read an autocue as I guess she made it up! I am sure you need a lot of training to keep up with it and also to be able to pronounce difficult words correctly and then to ad-lib when things go wrong and also to have a joke or two with the sports presenter and weatherperson - oh and to shuffle your pages and make comments to your co-presenter when you've said "goodbye" and the lights have faded and the final music played. Easy really!
Whilst it is no doubt true that anyone could read the news, I find that it is the personality of the reader that counts. That's why I watch BBC Breakfast rather than GMTV, and why I think Hugh Edwards is worth whatever the BBC decides to pay him. Like so many things in life, you don't really take much notice when it is done well, but you certainly do notice when it isn't.
Very good, but what exactly would a five year old do with £110,000 a year?
Paul Gitsham, Manchester
Sweeeeeet!!! I would finally purchase a TV set if only I could be guaranteed that Martha would not only read the news and weather but also write and edit it. She has quite an ability to select the salient matters in our world today.
Tony Hernandez, London
What more proof do we need ? Little Martha did a great job. She touched on all of the important details and did it all with a smile. Well done Martha ! When my own daughter Emma was three, we had just moved to MD from Arizona and she was verbally entranced by the clouds and trees. Despite all of her father's thought-provoking questions she continued on camera oblivious to the onslaught. She'd have made a natural born politician !
Jan Cordani, Maryland USA
I am old enougth to remember a broadcast a number of years ago where a young girl was reading the news. She was very good until the came to the phrase "grand prix" in an article about motorsport. At that point the whole studio collapsed into uncontrollable laughter. Somewhat put out she retorted that she had read exactly what was in the script.
Chris Isbell, UK
Simply delightful, who needs all those boring adults!? Should make it a regular event, daily after colouring-in and finger printing!
That has to be the best news broadcast I have ever heard; an honest interpretation of the weather, a brief mention of a war long ago and a rap on the knuckles for chewing gum eaters! Go Martha!
Diana Smith, Portugal
Any chance this could be a regular feature? This is ace. Grade "A" :)
James Hailstone, UK
Priceless. Many thanks for sharing that with us. And make sure you hang on to a copy for embarrassment purposes when she's older.
Neil Hoskins, UK
And a star is born.....
She must think we were all born yesterday.
Jon Anderson, UK
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