Tuesday 22 October 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Taking a stand for the poor presenters of the Six One News


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

I've been watching the news but I can't really concentrate. I'm afraid Sharon, the newsreader, is going to fall over. They're making the presenters stand up while they're reading the news. It started on the BBC, I think, but - inevitably - the practice spread to RTÉ. If the Brits are doing it, then we have to do it as well.

It makes no sense. I mean, if you wanted to make sure the presenters are sober, then getting them to stand and read at the same time would probably be a good idea - a kind of drunk-driving test for newsreaders. But, other than that, it's just daft.

Mind you, the sports reporters have been standing for years, especially on the Sunday news. But you half-expect them to be still in their gear, mucky knees and clutching blood-stained hurleys. They always look like they've just charged in from Croke Park. So, seeing them standing is no big surprise.

But the ordinary news? Why do poor Sharon and the others have to stand in front of a big screen while they're delivering the latest on Brexit? Maybe it's to make sure they don't fall asleep. I think I saw Keelin Shanley yawning on the Six One News, after she'd had to say "backstop" for the seventh time in less than a minute. So, that might be the thinking: they'll have to stay standing until Brexit is sorted.

It's just a theory.

But anyway, it's distracting. - What did she just say there? I ask the wife.

- I haven't a clue, she says. - I think she's going to faint.

The only one who's really comfortable standing is Eileen Dunne. She's a natural; she excels at it. I'm betting she used to go fishing, or she still does, and she's happy to stay still for hours. Or her Da brought her to the football when she was a kid and she learnt to stand and sway on the terrace. Maybe one night, halfway through a report on farmers and the trials of living in rural Ireland, she'll yell, "Up the Dubs!"


- This isn't what God intended, says the wife. - Having to stand like that.

- They're allowed to sit until after the ads, I tell her. - In fairness.

That's true - I think. The BBC don't have ads, so I don't know where that idea came from. It might be part of a union agreement or something, or maybe they're phasing in the standing.

Whatever, the fashion for the standing news is not a good idea, according to the wife. - Walking, Charlie, she says now. - Do you know what walking actually is?

- What?

- I read this, she says. - Walking is actually us trying not to fall over.

- Eh…

- When toddlers learn to walk that's what they're doing, they're trying not to topple. And that goes on all our lives, even though we're not aware of it. We're trying not to keel over. That's the only reason we walk.

I always enjoy her lectures. She seems to put jam on the information. - Somewhere in our subconscious, she says, - we're terrified we're going to fall.

- Even going to the boozer?

- Anywhere, she says. - Everything else is just incidental. Whether it's just getting from A to B or competing in the Olympics. All of us, we're trying desperately not to go on our a***s.

- That makes sense.

- It explains a lot of facial expressions when you think about it, she says. - And it's the same with standing. In my opinion. We should only stand when it's absolutely necessary. How often do you read standing up?

- Nearly never.

- There you go, she says. - I rest my case. Forcing them to stand while they're reading the news is probably illegal. It's torture.

- What about him? I ask.

I'm pointing at Paul Reynolds, who's standing outside Garda headquarters. There are no lights on behind the railings. All the guards are gone home or to Copper's. Paul Reynolds and the giraffes in the zoo are the only things left standing in the Phoenix Park.

But I suppose that's about aesthetics or urgency. You couldn't have Paul Reynolds telling us about the latest gangland shooting while he's sitting in a deckchair. And young Micheál Lehane, the Transition Year student who's been standing outside the Dáil for the last four or five years - you know the one; he looks like a happy de Valera. He loves the gig so much, there's no way you'd persuade him to sit on a stool while he's telling us all about Simon Harris.

The standing is one thing. But then, as if that isn't enough, they've introduced a big couch onto the Six One News. One minute they're having to stand to attention like it's graduation day in Templemore; the next they're - I think the word is 'reclining' - on the couch, chatting to George Lee about the cows and the climate change. Ah, here.

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