Reading the news is child's play, say frontline reporters

By Caitlin Pike
 
BBC frontline journalists have backed the tirade
against “overpaid” newsreaders unleashed by the old guard trio of John
Humphrys, Andrew Marr and Michael Buerk.

One, who did not wish to be named, told Press Gazette he and
other colleagues were whole-heartedly in agreement: “In the bulletins,
the presenters just read 10 15-second intros and I agree a fouryear-
old could do it. They tend to be prima donnas, they turn up about three
hours before they go on air and have minimal editorial input.

“They
may write the tops of some stories – there are plenty of people who can
do it and many of them have no brains at all. The journalists out in
the field who risk their lives to get stories and get paid far less
than the presenters feel it is pretty unfair and unbalanced. I think they are grossly overpaid.”

The
reporter, who has covered trouble spots all over the world, stressed it
was important to make the distinction between presenters of programmes
such as Newsnight and Today and those who read bulletins such as the
six o’clock and 10 o’clock news. “The former role is far more
intellectually challenging,” he argued.

Marr, Humphrys and
Buerk stuck to the same script when they spoke at last week’s Hay
literary festival, saying reading the news did not require brains and
presenters’ salaries were over-inflated.

BBC Radio 4’s Today presenter Humphrys was reported as saying that his four-year-old son would soon be able to read the TV news.

BBC political editor Marr said: “Newsreaders, they really do come and go. I have never understood why they are paid so much.”

Buerk, a former presenter of the BBC’s 10 o’clock news, described one newsreader as a “complete dumbo”.

Newsreaders’ salaries are thought to range from about £150,000 to £500,000.

The BBC defended the newsreaders’ role
and salaries, saying: “The job may appear uncomplicated, but that’s
down to the thorough professionalism of those involved. Newscasters
bring an excellent journalistic pedigree and exceptional presentation
skills to their roles.

“Many equate a presenter’s work with their
30-minute bulletins, but they are editing and writing copy, as any
journalist would, throughout the day, before presenting a live
programme. We place enormous emphasis on value for money, but we exist
within a competitive market and have to pay market rates.”

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