Thursday, January 19, 2006

This Just In #1: Natarsha Belling. Perhaps because of seeing Good Night and Good Luck on Monday, or even just the late news after the (ahem) Victoria's Secret fashion show last night, I have decided to inaugurate a series of banal musings on the quirky personalities and foibles of Australian television news. For example: I know why they do it, but it still gives me the shits the way the item I want to watch in the late-night bulletin is always towards the end, forcing me to keep watching through several commercial breaks. Last night it was a nail-biting piece on whether men or women get more health benefits from aspirin. (The answer was that men get protection from heart attack while women get protection from stroke.)

So, to kick off this extremely semi-regular series, I bring you: Natarsha Belling! According to her Channel Ten biography, Natarsha Belling "has always had a passion for Journalism". She holds a communications degree from Charles Sturt University, majoring in broadcast journalism, with minors in politics and criminology. While still in her final year, she worked at Prime Television in Orange, NSW. At the tender age of 21, she joined ABC Radio and ABC-TV in Darwin, where she presented her first news bulletin with only 30 minutes notice! Moving to Sydney in 1998, Natarsha joined Network Ten as a reporter, receiving the Heart Week award for medical reporting in 1999. She was still only 22 when she read her first Ten bulletin. She married in 2001. She now presents the national 11.30am news, Ten's prime-time Sydney bulletin, the national late-night news and the national weekend news.

The bio adds: "Natarsha has had an impressive journalism career to date, especially for her young age and no doubt has an exciting future ahead. Her warmth, sincerity and passion for news are evident in her reporting and presenting manner."

But what the bio doesn't say is that Natarsha Belling has a terrible and embarrassing speech impediment! Or, as she herself would admit, a "tewwible and embawwassing speech impediment!" It seems ironic to me that she has that unnecessary R in her name, because she can't pronounce the letter R. I mean, just the other day she introduced a story by another Ten reporter called Harry Potter, who is doubtless going to be the subject of a forthcoming "This Just In" post. Her speech impediment was so bad that I thought his name was "Howie".

"Austwalia faces a gwowing wisk of tewwowism, the Pwime Minister said today..."

It is just mink-blowing to me how someone could have got through a major in broadcast journalism with such a handicap, let alone had a successful career at several companies where surely it would have been detected! I know they look for these things, because one friend of mine was told she was unsuitable for radio because she "popped her Ps", while another was rejected for a radio job because his voice "was too flat".

Over the years I have tried to educate my friends and housemates about Natarsha's speech impediment, and they agree in the end, but I get the feeling it's just to humour me. I feel so alone in this, like a Cassandra figure doomed never to be believed. Even the mighty Google was no help.

Just listen to Ten News, and you'll see what I mean. That was Just In. I'm Mel Under-Whimsy.

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