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!
But since I don’t believe you watch your own bulletins with the sound turned off, can I assume that you just don’t care how your field reporters sound? Is it your view that voice quality is a dated, old-fashioned and rather snobby concept? ‘Who gives a damn? What’s it got to do with news?’
That would at least explain how you could put to air a few nights ago a young female reporter who not only talked through her nose but combined that attribute with a pronounced lisp. I thought that was a disservice to her as much as to her audience.
Harsh? Well it might be if some at least of these speech patterns could not be remedied with a little voice training.
But ‘training’ now appears to be an alien concept with the major television networks. It’s off the polytech journalism course on Monday and onto the nation’s television screens on Tuesday. That isn’t fair to them and it isn’t fair to us.
‘But Brian, Hilary Barry and Caroline Robinson and Rachel Smalley and Wendy Petrie and Bernadine Oliver-Kerby all have lovely voices.’ They do indeed, but they’re news anchors not field reporters and their beautiful voices merely serve to highlight some of the atrocities that follow their introductions.
Now I’m aware that I haven’t named any of the One or Three News field reporters with terrible voices in this rave. That’s because the fault is not theirs but their bosses’ who aren’t offering them training to improve their voices and delivery. And I also don’t want to be cruel.
At the same time I recognise that this anonymity is unfair to all the field reporters on both networks who have good to excellent voices. I reckon that’s four out of 10 and to them I apologise. You probably know who you are.
Now if I’ve got it wrong and this nasal whine is now the way most New Zealand women speak and has become ‘the female New Zealand accent’, or if I’m out of step with what TV viewers want, I’m happy to be corrected.
And there is at least an alternative – Maori Television which, I happen to know, thinks it worthwhile to invest in improving the on camera performance and delivery of its front-people and field reporters. It shows.
Media trainer and commentator Dr Brian Edwards blogs at Brian Edwards Media.
Judy [Callingham] posted about this issue on Facebook a couple of days ago. The response was a mixture of support and hostility.
Much of the hostility seemed to stem from the misconception that anyone criticising the way women TV field reporters in this country speak today must be hankering for a return to the plummy BBC delivery that was a feature of public broadcasting in New Zealand until the 70’s and possibly a little later.
But this isn’t about accent, it’s about sound. It’s about something that ought to be pleasing or at least inoffensive to the ear, instead of being harsh, grating and unpleasant. It’s how I would compare Mozart, or for that matter Sting, to Johnny Rotten.
In The Rise and Fall of a Young Turk, Rob Muldoon wrote that the only reason for my success in New Zealand television was my ‘intriguing Irish accent’. Actually you could have driven off vampires with the sound of my voice in the 60’s. It’s much more pleasant now. I haven’t lost my accent and I don’t want to. It’s just more pleasant to listen to.