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Editorial

Let’s try a little theology. In the old Catholic mass, the priest faced the altar together with the congregation. The idea was to inspire total reverence by focusing everyone’s attention on God, signified by the altar, as the sole point of worship.

But the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) turned things around. In the new mass the celebrant faces the congregation. Traditionalists have for years grumbled that the new liturgy makes the priest – not God – the focus of the mass.

The celebrant is a possible distraction, as some people in the congregation may not avoid watching him instead of praying. He has crooked teeth. Bulging nose. Nice athletic body, oh. What is that scar? Kwani alipigwa ngeta? The mass might become more of theatre, with the priest as the main character, than worship.

Television news is the same. The news anchor risks becoming the focus of the broadcast and distracting the audience.

International TV stations particularly seem to be aware of this risk. You will notice news anchors in most major networks refrain from drawing any attention to themselves. They are deliberately reserved. The audience has tuned in to watch the news, not ogle the anchor.

Their general bearing is calm and authoritative. Nothing about their voice, facial expression or gestures is needlessly dramatic no matter the content of the story they are presenting. You get the sense they would not be excitable if they were announcing the end of the world. You don’t see an anchor presenting the news with an OMG look on their face.

The point is to avoid imposing their subjective reactions on a story. It is up to the viewer to decide what to think of a story and how to react to it.

But locally, the news anchor most of the time tries to be the “news”. They are celebs. Fashionistas. What they wear, their diction, how they strut across the studio before the cameras, their dramatic facial expressions and reactions to the stories they read is often very much part of the news.

A certain anchor in one of the TV stations is all bubbly and smiley throughout the bulletin. Everyone must know she is having the time of her life being on the screen!

The station itself has not helped matters by running headlines that look like a joke. The catchy phrases are presumably meant to make the news interesting. But, in fact, they debase the news.

The definition of news as information about matters of public interest ought to be treated with certain sacredness. People are interested in the news to enable them make sense of their world.

It is no accident that a huge percentage of news content is serious stuff: death, disease, corruption, politics, business, education, religion and so on. Almost no one looks for fun in the news.

At its finest journalism – on TV or whatever platform – holds power to account with the aim of building a just society. That’s no joke, or is it?

Maybe television anchors should wear plain robes and read the news with their backs to the cameras.

See you next week!

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