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[Now in MSM!] Lindsay Perigo Op-Ed: The Rice for the Putts
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Tue, 2010-07-27 00:39
Stop press! An edited, updated version of this has just been published in the Dominion Post http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff-n...
Lindsay Perigo Op-Ed: The Rice for the Putts
July 27, 2010
I wonder how many television viewers there are like me for whom watching the six o’clock news on TVNZ or TV3 was until recently a staple of their daily routine but who now repair to online sources for their news because the network bulletins have become unwatchable—or more precisely, unlistenable? An army of airheads has been let loose on the airwaves who have no business being anywhere near a microphone sounding the way they do. They don’t speak, they quack. Many newsreaders and most reporters on flagship news bulletins now sound like panicked ducks at the start of the shooting season. Their employers, far from being alarmed by the situation and sending their uneducated charges off for remedial speech training, embrace the barbarian triumph as a victory for the authentic Kiwi accent. It is nothing of the sort. The quacking epidemic spawned by TVNZ and TV3 is now a national plague and an international joke, an unseemly blight on a nation claiming to be civilised. In recent weeks, high-profile commentators Karl du Fresne, Deborah Coddington and Janet Wilson (herself a former television reporter) have rung alarm bells about it.
As I put it myself in my online Kiwis Don’t Quack campaign (lindsayperigo.com):
It may be too late to stem the barbarian tide. Many people, including a revered former newsreader schooled, like me, at the long-defunct NZBC Announcer Training Centre, have ventured to me in private that the disease is entrenched and irreversible. Try to draw attention to it and you’ll be closed down. On Radio Live a few weeks back I played a couple of clips of leading news reporters in full quack. I neither named them nor specified for which network they were quacking—I had recorded 20 such clips from both TVNZ and TV3 bulletins. As it happened, the two clips I played were of TV3 reporters. TV3’s Head of News and Current Affairs, Mark Jennings, immediately fired off an e-mail to Radio Live Manager Mitch Harris calling me a “prick” and in effect demanding I be taken off air. When the Business Herald’s John Drinnan got wind of the story, Jennings acknowledged there was indeed a problem with his reporters’ speech, but Perigo couldn’t be the one to fix it since he had hurt their feelings! Mitch Harris, for his part, ordered me not to raise “old fart” concerns like speech standards again (I walked out).
People like Jennings, whom we expect to act as gatekeepers for the language, if not in fact militantly committed to its destruction, certainly behave as though they are. At TVNZ’s birthday bash celebrating 40 years of network news last year, Jennings’ TVNZ counterpart, Anthony Flannery, said it was a matter of pride for him that a voice-over leading into the six o’clock news now called it the “sucks o’clock news.” Flannery declined an invitation to discuss the matter with me over a drink, fobbing me off with, “I’m sure you’ll continue to keep us on our toes.” These linguistic thugs are part of a Media Mediocrity Mafia that, while not illegal, is certainly criminal. Ostensibly the two channels are in competition with each other; the only discernible contest between them as best I can tell is a race for the pits.
It’s no longer just that the content of the bulletins is braindead—someone pointed that out 17 years ago; it’s that the delivery is now braindead too—a clear case of arrested development. In their childlike glottal stops (“thuh office”), their selective emphasis that is 100% wrong (hitting conjunctions and prepositions—”Woow arroyv UN Wawwington ET sucks o’clock”), their spluttering nasality, their unprecedented capacity to combine dim-witted droning and silly sing-song, their inability to scan ahead and phrase intelligently, our reporters are stuck at the level of an infant. It may be that they are not truly the “airheads” that I just called them, but they certainly seem like airheads with such retarded speech patterns. No, one is not demanding they speak like the Queen, but is it too much to ask that they sound like educated adults? All that attention to how they look, and none whatsoever to how they sound! (Except when articulating Maori words. If it's good enough for Maori, why not English?)
One of my pupils, a budding TV actor barely in his 20s, confessed that he was in deathly fear of being made to sound “posh.” Sounding “posh,” he believed, would activate Tall Poppy Syndrome, be “uncool” and jeopardise his career. By “posh” he evidently meant “plummy, like Sam Neill,” whose career doesn’t seem to have suffered for it. I pointed to the impeccably Kiwi rugby commentary trio of Grant Nisbett, Tony Johnson and Murray Mexted, all of whom speak clearly and well without sounding remotely “plummy.”
What does it matter, the barbarians’ cheerleaders will ask, as long as we get the gist of what they’re saying?! Dominion Post columnist Karl du Fresne answered this recently:
And there’s more, a compelling reason why resistance to the barbarian onslaught is not just a quaint preoccupation of “old farts.” George Orwell said it best:
A New Zealand in which quacking is as universal as it’s threatening to become will be intellectually bankrupt. Its democracy will be a travesty of freedom as vapid voters who routinely quack inanities such as “Yeah, no, I’m like, oh my god, that’s so totally awesome” will thus mindlessly endorse the most unconscionable bribes offered by the most unscrupulous politicians.
Not only being able to watch the news again, but also freedom and civilisation themselves, are at stake.
Lindsay Perigo is a former television newsreader and interviewer
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