John Humphrys is a well known Pommy former
newsreader and TV presenter with some very definite views on his
“profession.” He told The Independent in London this week that reading the news needed “no brain.”

used to read the Nine O’Clock News. It isn’t work, whatever anybody
says. You get paid a lot of money and it requires no brain. I have a
four-year-old and I think he’ll be ready in a couple of months,” he

What about Australian newsreaders – show ponies the lot of them, according to many viewers.

Like the stories about legendary Channel Nine Melbourne newsreader Brian Naylor,
who would fly in by chopper, do the news each afternoon, then fly back
to his country home when it was over. And former Nine king Brian Henderson,
with his clear diction and his impeccable looks. But how what he’s
reading was created is pretty much a mystery to Brian. He just reads it
– his background is as a former host of Bandstand, the pioneering music program on Nine.

like all generalisations, the idea that reading the news is a no
brainer doesn’t always hold true. Hendo’s replacements on Nine, Jim
Waley and Mark Ferguson, are very solid reporters with local and
international experience. They earned their reading spots by reporting
news first. Likewise Ian Ross on Seven and Leila McKinnon on the Today Show on Nine. Simon Reeve on Seven’s Sunrise
are readers with a solid reporting background. Over at Ten it’s a very
mixed pack. Ron Wilson had some reporting experience, as did Tim
Webster. Jessica Rowe was a junior reporter with nowhere near the
experience of a Mark Ferguson or even her hubbie, Peter Overton on 60 Minutes. But she looks great and speaks clearly.

ABC’s NSW reader, Juanita Phillips is also light-on for reporting
experience. Paul Lockyer at the ABC is unusual in that he had very
solid reporting credentials. Nine’s bovver boy, Mike Munro is an
average reader, but a solid journalist in print and TV. But the one
thing that unites all of them is their seeming vanity about their
appearance. That’s understandable because how they look is as important
as what they’re saying: no-one will believe a scruffy newsreader, or
someone whose make-up is wrong or whose tie is undone.

So what
are the pitfalls of reading the news? Constant pursing of the lips is
one. Some readers do elocution lessons to get rid of troublesome
sibilants or worrisome vowels (try imitating a fish).

jeans, shorts and thongs below the desk, with the full half suit on top
is standard for some readers (there’s a famous picture in the Nine
make-up room of Jim Waley wearing thongs when doing Live at Five for Nine back in the early 90s).

The most notorious appearance by a presenter in Australia was Mike Willesee on A Current Affair
when he took the chair “tired and emotional” and slurred his way through
the half hour and never reappeared. And then there’s the new and old
recruits to 60 Minutes on Nine who have to do the “I ams.” Sometimes the inability to say “I’m George Negus” or “I’m Liz Hayes” in the 60 Minutes
style would be compulsory viewing for Nine staff. Mostly it was easy,
but every now and then someone would struggle to great amusement.

looking in the mirror and saying I’m [insert your name here]. It’s
tougher than you think – even if a four-year-old can do it.

Of course there’s one more pitfall of the newsreader/TV presenter trade
– the risk that your blooper tapes will be circulated on the internet
and you’ll be held up to unwarranted ridicule. Check out the latest
Naomi Robson video here.