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and finally...is it the end of the anchor?

Brian Dobson is pretty certain we won't have newsreaders in twenty years time, but he figures the demise of the job could come as soon as five years from now.

Roughly half of people under thirty get the news from their smartphone. So the idea of sitting down at nine o'clock to watch the TV news will soon seem terribly dated.

But there's something so reassuring about news presented by someone we see as a figure of trust.

And newsreaders, for three quarters of a century, were major figures of trust and authority, starting with the guys on the BBC like Alvar Lidell, who announced the details of the Normandy landings, who told the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk and who also solemnly informed the world when a King died.

The early newsreaders were all male, because it was the ultimate officer class within broadcasting.

They had to speak Received Standard English, have perfect dignity, and have gravitas dripping from every pore. When television arrived, they wore evening dress, as if to show how seriously they took their role.

Back then, the real news, as opposed to news about celebs, mattered so much that the newsreaders who presented it simply had to be believable. They had to be trusted.

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For the most part, they were trusted because they were utterly detached. Non-partisan in tone and inflection, they never betrayed the remotest possibility that they might have a personal opinion on anything.

Until, that is, the day when Walter Cronkite, the doyen of American anchormen, threw his weight unmistakeably behind the effort to end the Vietnam war.

The then President of the United States, Lyndon Johnson, watching the broadcast, reportedly muttered "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

Newsreaders always carried an air of great intellectual weight, despite the fact that, as Bunny Carr once observed, you couldn't survive for long as a newsreader unless you had large spaces of emptiness between your ears because it was such an incredibly boring job.

To find newsreading a daily challenge and a satisfying career option, back in the days before newsreaders got to do a bit of interviewing, meant that you were dumb as a tree and vain as a peacock.

It's only within living memory that women became newsreaders. Until they broke through and people like Anne Doyle became family favourites, it was believed that viewers wouldn't pay attention to the news if a woman read it because they would be so interested in her clothes and jewellery.

Now they're all on the exit chute. If so - how sad.


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