Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Television News'

On awful female voices in television news and who’s really to blame.

I’m going to keep this reasonably brief. It’s a plea to the bosses at TVNZ and TV3 and to their Heads of News.

Do you watch your own news bulletins? If you do, do you watch with the sound turned off? That is the only possible reason I can think of why a majority of your female field reporters have such ghastly, such appalling, such unlistenable voices.

And no, I am not talking about their Kiwi accents. I think we should embrace that aspect of our culture. (Though I could do without ‘Wallington’ and ‘talyvision’.) No,  I’m talking about the fact that most of these young women sound as though they have permanent head colds, that the noise they produce is a high-pitched nasal whine that compares unfavourably with chalk squeaking on a blackboard. THEY ARE AWFUL!   Read the rest of this entry »


Mangled English on 3News

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’m going out with a snarl.

TV3 has a line-up of excellent regular newsreaders, both male and female. They present the news clearly and cleanly, and manage to avoid the contrived and cringe-making wordplay that litters TVOne’s bulletins.

However, the final bulletin for the year had the female newsreader labelling Diane Foreman an ‘entreprenyure’ – rhymes with ‘manure’ – and her male counterpart telling us about ‘nucyular’ capacity and Russell Brand’s ‘sex addition’. Tonight’s presenters are both familiar faces, but the channel didn’t give us their names. Wisely, perhaps.

Accurate pronunciation should be a prerequisite for  those who make their living presenting television and radio bulletins, as should the ability to read short pieces aloud without making a complete twit of oneself, and just because we’re in the silly season doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect English-as-a-first-language from the network’s stand-in presenters.

Take two aspirin and wait for Caroline, Hillary, Mike and Simon to return…


Absolutely awesome!

Have you noticed that no-one just says ‘Yes’ anymore? The standard affirmative reply seems to be ‘Absolutely!’ 

We first noticed this during media training sessions.  It became impossible for interviewees to answer a question with a simple affirmative. ‘Absolutely’ used to be an intensifier that added real weight to a reply. Now it’s crept into everyday language and taken over:

‘Are you going to the supermarket?’


Then we have the wonderful old biblical word ‘awesome’, which for centuries used to mean something that filled one with awe – the face of God, the power of the weather, the breathtaking beauty of Nature. Today?

‘I’m cooking sausages for tea.’


So we’ve taken two of the strongest words in our vocabulary and watered them down until they carry no more weight than ‘yes’ or ‘that’s nice’. Read the rest of this entry »


‘Er, I dunno really…’ Time to dispense with vox pops on the news?

The first television programme I ever appeared on was the Christchurch edition of the regional magazine Town and Around. The programme was on four nights a week and I was paid $18 for each item I produced. You still got paid if the film was lost in processing, which it frequently was, so in a good week I could earn $90 for five items, which was a small fortune in those days.

Along with host Bernard Smyth and reporters John O’Sullivan, Judi Douglas and David McPhail, we turned out three or four items from the region each night on everything from the closing of the Dobson mine to teaspoon collections and concrete garden ornaments. If there was a gap in the programme, we went out and did a vox pop. The word comes from the Latin vox populi, meaning ‘the voice of the people’.

These days you can see vox pops on pretty well every major news bulletin and occasionally on Close Up and Campbell Live. But they’re very different to the vox pops we had on the Town and Around programmes in the four main centres.  Our vox pops were three or four minutes long and we put the question to a lot more people in the street, maybe ten or more. So you got a reasonable, if entirely unscientific, sample of public opinion.

Compare this with the average news vox pop today. Three or four people will be considered an adequate sample; children, drunks and assorted mental defectives will be regarded as acceptable commentators; neighbours and bystanders will be treated as reliable witnesses and sometimes as forensic experts; five seconds will rate as sufficient for the expression of a considered opinion; and scant regard will be paid to the meaning of what was said in order to keep to that duration.

Here are two examples from this week’s news. Read the rest of this entry »


Another Take On Network News

Thanks to Ross for drawing my attention to this close-to-the-bone take on the typical network news story. Enjoy!


In case you wondered what Hillary and Mike do in the ad breaks…

Those boring ad breaks – how do you  fill in the time? 

Erudite conversation? Thespian bickering? Or perhaps something like this…


Old Time Music Hall from New Zealand Television News


Many years ago, when I was running the television modules at the AUT,  I invited Tom Parkinson, former Head of Entertainment with TVNZ and one of the driving forces behind TV3, to give a guest lecture to some of my senior students. I assumed he would talk about Light Entertainment, but his theme was the remarkable similarity in structure between network television news and the  old time  music hall.  It was mostly about placement: where in the programme you put the starring acts (major stories), second tier acts (less major stories), intermissions (commercial breaks), comedy acts (funny stories), high wire acts (dramatic stories), pre-intermission acts (teasers),  heart-warming acts (human interest stories) and so on.  ‘Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em wait.’ It was a fascinating lecture and the exactness of the analogy was remarkable.

I don’t think it was Tom’s intention to suggest that the actual content of the television news bulletin should be the same as the content of a music hall bill, but I’m starting to feel that that is where we are inexorably going. Our news-reading duos increasingly look like comedy double acts. Read the rest of this entry »


And now we cross live to…

You are a reporter for the television news. You go out, shoot your story, take it back, edit it and record the soundtrack. It is neatly packaged and all ready for the six o’clock bulletin.  The newsreader could deliver the intro and go straight into it – s/he could even do the voice-over. That’s the way news used to be.

But that isn’t good enough for modern news. You,  the reporter, have to go back to the location with your camera operator and stand, shivering in the pitch black, maybe in the rain, and do your ‘live cross’.  It’s bizarre enough at the best of times.  In the depths of winter it borders on insanity.

Why do we have live crosses? Well, there are two reasons: the first is completely legitimate – the news is still happening and you are updating the item you shot earlier; the second is all about (you guessed it) ratings. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Report the News

Railing at the water cooler? In despair about the quality of our television news bulletins? Think you could do better with your monosyllabic nephew as camera operator and the pneumatic blonde from the dairy armed with a list of pre-prepared questions?  You need Charlie Brooker’s How to Report the News.   Enjoy!


Disaster Accountancy in the Media

A young woman is in critical condition in Auckland City Hospital after being hit by a bus in Mount Wellington yesterday. This is a dreadful situation for the girl, her family and the driver of the bus. If the girl dies or is left disabled it will indeed be a tragedy, as this morning’s front page Herald story rightly suggests.

But the Herald has a sidebar to the story headed “SAD TOLL”. It reports that between May 2000 and February 2009 four people have died in bus accidents in Auckland. Four people in nine years. While each of those events will have been a tragedy for everyone involved, the sidebar and the use of the word “toll” seem to me to suggest a much blacker history of fatal accidents involving buses than the statistics would imply. Read the rest of this entry »