I was running a media training course the other day and playing back recordings of the participants’ first round of TV interviews.
One of the participants, upon watching his performance, exclaimed: “That was dreadful. I’m waving my hands around like those newsreaders on TV”.
This got me thinking or rather observing our TV newsreaders a little more closely. My course participant was dead right. The adoption of arm-waving and hand mannerisms by some newsreaders on TV has now reached such proportions that they are almost editorialising with their bodily gesturers.
One newsreader in particular (no name, no station – I’ll leave you to guess) lapses into an expansive opening up of the arms whenever they read anything sad or controversial or, more seriously, politically charged.
So, the script might go something like this:
“Speaking before Congress, President Obama told Republicans that unless they passed his new jobs creation package, they will be held personally responsible for blighting the lives of millions of Americans.” (This is made up, by the way.)
On the words “held personally responsible for blighting the lives of” the arms are thrown open as if to invite viewers to share Obama’s sense of outrage at Republicans and to join him in emoting that outrage in a joint show of disbelieving indignation over the stance the Republicans are taking. The newsreader in question might throw in a deeply concerned nod of the head to reinforce the impression that we, the people, are at one in being astounded that there could be a scintilla of opposition to Obama’s proposal. This, as I say, comes close to editorialising.
Another newsreader often seems to feel the need to reinforce what they are reading with a clench of their fist, which is thrust in the direction of the viewer to reinforce a point being made in the script.
So, the script might run like this: “An independent report published today said there can have been no excuse for care home supervisors in Cityville for the brutal and humiliating way they treated residents before a whistleblower exposed what was taking place”.
Again, on the words “brutal and humiliating way they treated residents”, the fist is clenched to ram home the point about the terrible way in which residents were allegedly abused. In so doing, the newsreader appears to be bestowing their news station’s authority upon the report’s findings.
If, in the next sentence they go on to read, “The care home owners deny culpability, saying the allegations were merely the work of a disgruntled employee, sacked because of frequent and dangerous lapses in safety procedures” and the newsreader does not similarly emphasise “disgruntled” and “frequent and dangerous lapses in safety procedures”, then that amounts to bias.
It’s the job of news programmes to report the news straight and leave viewers to make up their own minds as to which side of an argument sounds more convincing. We don’t need a newsreader to tell us.