THE weekday six o'clock TV news is often grim news indeed. Very weighty words are required to convey the grimness of this news. This is why it takes at least two newsreaders to manoeuvre them into our living rooms.

Weighty words shared are a burden pared. Or perhaps that should be "paired". As we know, the TV executives realise that a gender split is also necessary to get those heavy words over the line. I'm not sure why this is, but it stands to reason that it must be the case, or else they wouldn't arrange it that way. I can't ever seem to recall a Ken and a Bob sitting side-by-side at the news desk in their suits giving us the latest gen. Or a Jody and a Jane for that matter. It must be something to do with delivering balanced news.

But you'll notice -- and perhaps wonder why -- the camera will often home in on just one of these news anchors as they do their thing. Again, this is a heavy burden thing. The strain of imparting 30 or 40 words before cutting to the on-the-spot reporter or pre-recorded clip is such that specialist support is necessary. So while newsreader A is doing his or her thing, newsreader B is receiving the frenzied attention of a team of health professionals in the wings.

In the minute-and-a-half it takes for that particular item to run its course, newsreader B is getting the works -- deep-tissue massage, smelling salts, multi-vitamin injections, and possibly colonic irrigation. This is why they are able to appear so alert and up for it when their turn to deliver another 30 or 40 weighty words next comes around. Sometimes the strain of introducing the item is so great that the 30 or 40 word intro to the next item has to be shared between the two presenters. No wonder they're on the same pay scale as extreme athletes.


This level of support doesn't come cheap. For a start, there are two very chunky salaries to pay -- and that's just for the faces fronting the news desk. Hence the news hour really isn't a news hour at all -- more like a news 20 minutes. The other 40 minutes is to carry the extra ads necessary to pay the extra salary and extras of the extra person sitting at the desk. Unavoidable if we're to continue to enjoy the fruits of these hard-working duos.

Normally the strain of delivering this volume of weightiness 24/7 would be unsustainable. But the discerning eye of the Good Lord escapes no detail. In His almighty benevolence, He arranges things so that during the weekends and public holidays, fewer grim things happen. We know this is the case because in these periods only a single news reader is required to carry the burden.

This is why old-time stalwarts like Bill Toft and Philip Sherry were always more than capable of anchoring the news by themselves, even during the week. News was less grim back then, as was the travail of bearing it.

There are media analysts who contend so-called news programmes are structured exactly the same way as Victorian music hall shows. Start off with an attention-getter -- the old, "if it bleeds, it leads" clip. Then you have a smorgasbord of variety acts with a little bit of something-for-everyone -- road crashes, medical misadventures, odd bits of war, famine, tornadoes, flooding, that sort of thing. Then the sports and weather people do their little song and dance. But you gotta leave them laughing -- or at least smiling -- so naturally you finish off with the happy ending cat-in-a drainpipe rescue, or the cute albino tiger cubs.

In other words, despite the real tragedies, it's just another info-tainment to sell ads. But of course I could never be so cynical. Besides, afterwards we can always flick over to the Paunch & Jaunty Show on TV3 for a bedtime Story. By George, they spin some great yarns.