Matthew Norman: Wanted: woman who can read out loud


If there is one corner of national life towards which we in the media show scandalous contempt, it is the matter of who is and isn't presenting news bulletins. I've made the point before, but make no apology for reiterating it.

There is no higher journalistic calling than the discipline known in kindergartens around the English-speaking world as "reading out loud". Yet days pass with less socially responsible newspapers devoting as little as two or three pages to the matter. So thank heaven BBC director-general Mark Thompson's drive to remind us of its sovereign importance by commanding his minions to scour the land, much as Arthur sent his knights to find the grail, for a mature lady newsreader. We will come to the betting below, but first a suggestion.

Of such significance is the search for a woman over 50 who retains the twin capacities to read and speak that it must not be rushed. The answer is a Saturday night BBC1 show, after the Arlene Phillips-free Strictly Come Dancing, on the usual lines. A panel of Joan Bakewell, Esther Rantzen, Mary Warnock and Lady Thatcher would judge the performances before the public phoned in its votes. The grand finale would be a live read-off involving a bulletin heavily dotted with Thai, Sri Lankan and Latvian surnames, and with traps laid for potentially obscene Spoonerisms. This is so much more, after all, than a cunning stunt to assuage the middle-aged female demographic. This is a golden chance to democratise a vital area, because as Marshall McLuhan should have said, you get the newsreaders you deserve. Let's find ourselves one to be proud of.

Runners and riders

And so to the early betting for the Tokenist Old Boiler Autocutie Stakes. Paddy Power makes Anna Ford 100-30 favourite, with fellow ageism victim Moira Stuart close behind on 7-2. Nonagenarian chart topper Dame Vera Lynn is next best at 7-1, while bracketed on 9s are Kate Adie, Angela Rippon, Virginia Wade and Sue McGregor. A slightly desperate job application on 5 Live ("I'm still hot" was the gist) sees Jan Leeming drift to 12s. Then comes Arlene Phillips on 16-1, with Valerie Singleton, Bridget Kendall, Mad Mel Phillips, Orla Guerin and the late Googie Withers all on 20s. It's 25-1 bar those. Susan Hampshire is now available at 33-1 "with a run" after complaints to the BBC from the British Dyslexia Association about bias.

Hunt the Tory spokesman

Little has been heard on this mature female newscaster front thus far from the Tory spokesman on the media, but it can't be long.

Jeremy Hunt is everywhere these days, dominating the subject at Westminster with ease.Admittedly he's up against Ben Bradshaw, but you can only beat what's put in front of you. I'm not entirely convinced that Jeremy's call for the BBC to recruit Tory-supporting hacks is a masterstroke, while his ritualistic paying obeisance to Rupert Murdoch is tiresome. Even so, with his perpetual blogging and his own YouTube channel (18 months old, and 26 subscribers; viral indeed), he is the very model of a modern media general. A personable, bright, youngish post-Thatcherite with his own charity to educate the orphans of African Aids victim seems someone worth watching, and further detail would be welcome. But nothing, please, about the hand-written expenses claim for £0.01 for a mobile call. This we already know.

A Sun tribute to Mum

In one of those touching flights of fancy that help make him a Friday must-read in The Sun, Jon Gaunt addresses his deceased mother ("God rest her soul").

Recalling how she "used to always say that hate was a wasted and negative emotion", this paradigm of filial respect deploys a contrite "I'm sorry, Mum" as the launch pad for a list of things he hates (HATES, to be precise) about Gordon Brown. "Mum, hate may be a negative emotion," he concludes, "but I sure as hell feel more positive now that I have got that lot off my chest."

We look forward to Gaunty's next lament about how the feckless, feral kids of today never take a blind bit of notice of their parents' advice.

It's safer in the office

Congratulations, finally, to David Blair who is leaving the Daily Telegraph to oversee the Financial Times' coverage of Africa and the Middle East. It was David, you will recall, who insouciantly wandered into a bombed-out Baghdad building and chanced upon a file of documents falsely alleging that George Galloway was on Saddam Hussein's payroll. And why on earth would such a miraculous discovery trigger alarm bells? The scoop bought joy, however short-lived, to the governments of Britain and America, and possibly the CIA, before costing the Telegraph £1,350,000 in libel costs and damages – enough to buy the MPs' exes data a dozen times over. All in all, a desk job in London looks the wisest way to go.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Campaign Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...

BI Analyst

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency in Central Lo...


£40000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: DBA, London,...

Web / Digital Analyst - SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform