Watching the Television One News the other night I couldn't help but notice how much newsreader Miriama Kamo enjoys playing with her ballpoint pen.

As she read her lines off her autocue she could often be seen twiddling the old ballpoint with great enthusiasm, displaying impressive hand dexterity.

Indeed, in headmasterly fashion, Kamo would sometimes subtly point the pen in our direction. She' s apparently not just reading the news - she's explaining it!

The television news is often a case of image winning over substance and Kamo's pen gymnastics are there to convey the impression that she is an authority on current affairs rather than just a reader of the autocue.

Whenever a television commercial wants to convey the impression of authority someone will appear on our screens wearing one of those white jackets that doctors or lab technicians wear. It's a variation on that.

Kamo's colleague, Wendy Petrie, is another pen twiddler - although not as obvious as Kamo. As the news opens you will often see Petrie writing something down on a piece of paper- her shopping list perhaps? -- after that she too likes playing with her pen.

Actually neither Kamo or Petrie employ the old BIC ballpoint. It's usually some slim silver instrument. Clearly such a pen is nicely weighted for maximum pen spinning potential.

Over on TV3 intermittent newsreader Carolyn Robinson also enjoys a bit of on-air pen twiddling. As the news opens Ms Robinson is, more often than not, passing the time of the day with her fellow newsreader. Often the pen is in both hands! In a double pen whammy, her co-newsreader is often holding his pen as well. Perhaps they've been discussing pen tricks.

After doing some research into 'pen twiddling' I was surprised to find there is another angle to this crucial issue of local TV newsreaders spinning their pens all over the place.

I was surprised to learn that pen twiddling - or pen spinning as its also referred to = has a proud history. In Japan, possibly the 'home' of pen spinning, its known as "pen mawashi" and has been popular since the 1970s.

In fact mucking about with a ballpoint is considered to be form of contact juggling and there are even international competitions devoted to it.

Perhaps some of New Zealand's television newsreaders are competitive pen spinners and are getting in some practice while reading the autocue. I thought they were just playing with their pens in a obvious and cheap bid to look 'knowledgeable' and 'authoritative', but perhaps there is more to all this pen spinning than meets the eye.

According to Wikipedia the four basic pen spinning tricks are the 'ThumbAround', 'Fingerpass', 'Sonic' and 'Charge'.

I'm sure that I've seen Kamo practising the 'ThumbAround' while she reads the news. ..


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