Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Reading out loud
prompts success

What were our parents and teachers thinking when they taught us to read without moving our lips? We could have been millionaires. We could have been rich television news anchors or national politicians if only we had not been forced to learn how to read with our mouths closed.

I remember that when my little classmates and I practiced reading, we'd plow through stories with our brows furrowed and lips firmly scrunched together.

But there was always the "dumb" kid who would mouth out the words as he read, sometimes even emitting squeaks and audible words. We pitied the hopeless wretch, destined for failure. Turns out he was Tom Brokaw. Or someone like him. That big dummy is still reading out loud, off of TelePrompTers, and making a ton of cash while all of us non-lip-movers are working for a living.

This whole reading- out-loud thing came up when I recently began to use a TelePrompTer to tape the "Honolulu Lites" I do for KITV's morning show. When I first starting doing the TV "Lites," I'd simply sit on the set and chat with anchor Paul Udell about subjects of the day. Then someone decided to change the format and decided it would be better if I looked right into the camera and read from the TelePrompTer.

NOW, IF YOU aren't familiar with a TelePrompTer, let me explain it: It's an insidious device that keeps text running right under the camera lens. It makes it look like you are looking right into the viewers' eyes, but you are actually reading the text as it scrolls.

For the first time, it's unnerving, something like alternately chasing and then fleeing from a train of verbiage. Someone sits at a monitor speeding up and slowing down the text depending on how fast you read.

I was so nervous the first few times I tried it, I read way too fast and forgot to breathe. It was like a race with the devil to get to the end of the piece before I turned blue and my head exploded.

Paul and others at the station are kind and understanding and say words of encouragement like, "Breathe, stupid! Breathe!" Actually, I am getting better. I've taped several pieces "and-I-don't-read-like-this-anymore-since-I-learned-how-to-throw-in-occasional (deep breath, pause) pauses."

I'm too long in the tooth and pudgy in the face to start a new career at this point in my life reading out loud in front of cameras.

That's too bad. If I had been just a bit slower as a child and allowed to move my lips when I read, who knows where I'd be today. Even a C student with marginal TelePrompTer skills can reach amazing heights (i.e., Jay Leno, Barney, George W. Bush).

I just shake my head now when I watch Dan Rather or millionaire televangelists. They seem to look straight at me, oozing sincerity, and yet I know they are simply-staring-at-a-TelePrompTer-and-reading-out-loud (pause, breathe), the lucky buggers.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail


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