Newsgirls who don’t envy Anna 

25 September 2023 tbs.pm/78778

A map of the UK turned on its side. Inside is a group of women smiling at the camera. Inset on top is a picture of Anna Ford.

 

TVTimes cover

From the TVTimes for 19-25 January 1980

RECOGNISE ANY of the girls above? At least one of them should be familiar. For each of those confident smiles beams out daily from TV screens in one part of Britain or another. They are the girl newscasters from nearly all the ITV regions, gathered in London for the first time. They are girls who could all be contenders for the kind of national fame and fortune that greeted Anna Ford when she left BBC’s Tomorrow’s World to present News at Ten.

Ironically, Anna – in a way, the newsgirls’ national figurehead – was missing from the group photograph. Pressures on her time are so great these days that the occasion was a luxury she regretted she couldn’t afford. But inevitably she was a major subject of discussion. The kind of celebrity stakes she has reluctantly found herself in both fascinate and horrify her regional colleagues.

Anna’s not a bit surprised. When I caught up with her later, she was sorry to have missed the party and felt she could have told the girls a thing or two about the price she has had to pay for her success.

“The public are lovely, friendly and warm, but the Press goes absolutely beyond the bounds of decency,” she said, bemoaning her loss of anonymity and irritated at being dubbed “Queen of ITN” by the newspapers.

“I do not need publicity and I do not want it, but I am told by the Press that I am public property and should put up with it. But apart from doing my job, I refuse to be on display.

“Reporters even hang around my neighbours, calling some of the women by their Christian names, which irritates them. But the neighbours are marvellous. They refuse to speak to the Press about me.”

When Anna started at ITN in March, 1978, she expected some publicity but thought it would all die down within a fortnight, yet her private life continues to be a magnet for Fleet Street gossip writers. For a time the satirical magazine Private Eye lampooned both Anna and former colleague Reginald Bosanquet.

“Fame does not attract me,” she said. “Having had a taste of it, I miss my privacy too much.”

Anna’s television career began in 1974 with Granada Television in Manchester. Her BBC counterpart, Angela Rippon, also started with another regional ITV company – Westward in Plymouth. Anna calls these companies “the potting sheds of television.”

Like Angela, Anna has blazed a trail for women and now, throughout the regions, there are many others doing similar jobs.

Not surprisingly, most of the newsgirls have followed Anna’s career – and the few glimpses of her private life the Press has succeeded in revealing – with sympathetic interest.

Most know her name has been linked by gossip writers with several men, including guitarist John Williams, and that her planned wedding with ITN reporter Jon Snow was called off last October.

They also know that Anna – named Newscaster of the Year last April – was married before she became famous and was divorced in 1976.

Far from being envious of Anna’s success, most of the 13 regional newsgirls, shown here, regarded the publicity that continues to surround her as a good reason for staying out of the national limelight.

But Anna believes there will be more and more openings for women in top newscasting jobs. “I have sometimes felt like the obligatory woman. On News at Ten there is still a feeling that it is nice to have one woman around but two would be going right over the top. But I think that will change and I see no reason why one day two women shouldn’t be sitting there together.

“I hope that soon it will be taken for granted that a woman reads the news, so there are bound to be far more openings for women. If you are strong enough, the publicity, though it may annoy and sometimes upset you, will not actually destroy you. It bothers me far less than it did a year ago. Now I see it much more as a bit of a joke.

“To any girl with ambitions I would say think about it. If it is going to upset you too much don’t do it, because it is a big intrusion which will not go away. You do lose something. But if you want the life, then have a go because it really does have a lot going for it.”

Shelley Rohde, a newscaster and reporter from Granada, said: “Anna had left Granada by the time I arrived. No, I don’t envy her. I am just glad women like Anna Ford and Angela Rippon are doing those jobs because they are first-class. I am pleased someone has broken the barriers against women in that particular area of life.”

Judi Spiers from Westward said: “I suppose most of us have some kind of ambition about reading the news nationally, but I wouldn’t feel capable of doing political interviews. Wherever you live, if you appear on screen, you have the same problems with publicity but on a smaller scale. I do have strong feelings about the public thinking they own you. Anna copes with all that with great charm and efficiency.”

Marion White, who appears regularly on Scottish Television, is happy to stay north of the Border. “I do not envy Anna or Angela but I think they paved the way for the rest of us. Certainly one of the snags about Anna’s job would be the personal publicity but I just want to be happy and fulfilled. Having been born in West Kilbride I feel happier to stay in Scotland. I do not think the Scottish identity has been fully explored and there is plenty of talent there that isn’t getting a chance.”

Among all the stories of on-screen nerves and embarrassing moments, one of the best was recalled by Alison Waters from HTV West in Bristol. It was during the last General Election. “I was trying to say that one of the Liberal candidates had held I many offices in the Party. actually said he had held many parties in the office.’

So, when next you watch your local girl newscaster, spare a thought for their problems.

 

 

 

pictures by Peter Bolton

 

You Say

2 responses to this article

Paul Wheeler 25 September 2023 at 2:19 pm

I’m sure all the women were delighted to be patronisingly referred to as ‘girls’ by the TV Times.

Probably meant as a ‘compliment’ but they wouldn’t have called Reginald Bosanquet and Sandy Gall ‘boys’.

Eddie Hutchinson 27 September 2023 at 6:55 pm

Surprised those pen pictures didn’t go the whole hog for the time and ask for ‘vital statistics’!

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