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Friday 1 December 2023 Dublin: 2°C
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'Part of the family': 1987 RTÉ guide pays tribute to 25 years of newsreaders

Ireland’s first TV newsreader Charles Mitchel was accused of looking at women’s legs through the screen when he first started.

THEY’VE BEEN THE familiar faces on our TV screens for decades, bringing the day’s news to us into our living rooms.

Before 1961, Ireland didn’t have newsreaders and it was in December that year that Charles Mitchel read the first bulletin, broadcast live to homes all across the country.

A 1987 RTÉ guide, featured on Brand New Retro, describes how newsflashes were slipped under the studio door when on air and instructions for the newsreader were written on boards and held up in front of him.

When he first started, he was regularly asked if he could see into people’s homes as he was reading the news and letters often accused him of staring at wives’ legs during broadcasts.

Things have changed a lot over the years. Newsreaders were paid just £26 a week at the beginning and many of the first television newsreaders came from Radio Eireann.

In the beginning, readers did not write their own scripts but eventually it was determined that they should have involvement in the journalistic process. In 1980, vacancies were created for five newscasters – Mitchel, Don Cockburn, Maurice O’Doherty, Cyril Smith and Anne Doyle. They were all given journalistic training.

Don Cockburn, who said viewers like their newscasters to be like “part of the family” also noted the change in dress, with an increase in formality over the years.

Eileen Dunne, covergirl on the 1987 guide, said:

We try not to distract too much from the news. I try to let about six weeks pass in between wearing outfits.

And one of the biggest changes, the article in the RTÉ guide noted, was the computerisation of newsrooms and the transfer of scripts onto autocue. No dummy boards for Sharon and Dobbo.

Today the studio and newsreaders looks quite different but one thing that hasn’t changed is that familiarity people feel when they pop up on the screen to bring them the day’s news.

The RTÉ guide article was uploaded by Brand New Retro. You can find more on the website or in Brian McMahon’s new book.

Read: Good night and good luck: Michael Murphy reads his last RTÉ bulletin>

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