Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Men Don't Want to Present the News

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Why Men Don't Want to Present the News

Article excerpt


BBC television has trouble finding new male newsreaders.

Graham McCann looks at the reasons men are saying no to the desk job

ACCORDING to those in a position to pronounce on these things, Kirsty Young represents the future of television news. Not, you understand, Kirsty Young as such - she has merely gone from seeming somewhat miserable and badly lit on Channel 5, to seeming even more miserable, and more brightly but still badly lit on ITV, to seeming miserable and badly lit on Channel 5 again - but rather female newsreaders in general. "In 10 years' time," Rachel Attwell, the BBC's deputy head of television news, is quoted as saying in the latest edition of Radio Times, "women will be the main presenters on the main channels."

Men, it seems, are no longer up to, or interested in, the supposedly onerous task of following an autocue. Ms Attwell recently scrutinised 17 audition tapes: 15 featured women, and only two, men. "I can't tell you the trouble I've had finding male presenters," she has lamented, "ones of quality, able to cope with anything. They are really thin on the ground."

This, in the short term, is good news for women and bad news for men, but, in the longer term, what is bad news for men is surely also bad news for women, because if men are not up to reading the news, then what are they up to?

There is an old saying in broadcasting: Those who can, do; those who can't, teach; and those who can't teach, read the news. It is, more or less, true: the vocation of newsreading is seriously overrated.

Most of us, after all, have been quite capable of reading the news for ourselves since very early in our lives yet these strange, self-important creatures still persist in appearing before us like some modern-day Moses back down from the mount.

The women, nowadays, are rather more tolerable than the men, because the women have by far the more masculine attitude to the job. The likes of Fiona Bruce, Kirsty Wark and Katie Derham behave in the kind of brisk, no-nonsense, somewhat muscular manner that suggests that they would like you to be in absolutely no doubt about their ability to write as well as read. Most of their male counterparts now seem content - or, in some cases, desperate - to be liked, loved and/or lusted after.

Think of Michael Buerk, turning slowly but surely with each furtive smirk into the new primetime Des Lynam, or Dermot Murnaghan, twinkling away all Cliff Richardish, or Matthew Amroliwala, BBC News 24's absolute poppet of a presenter, or Jon Snow, Channel 4's bright-tied, increasingly dandyish anchor, or, indeed, the self-consciously venerable Sir Trevor McDonald, who does not so much tell us the news as treat us to it. …

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