Skip to content

Why is there a line-up of people behind speaker?

Joyce Walter reflects on her interest in the news.
Reflective Moments by Joyce Walter

As a bit of a news junkie, it has been my sworn duty to be observant, attentive to details and when possible, retain all the information imparted via a variety of news sources.

This interest in news started as a child, reading the daily newspaper delivered via Canada Post to my rural community. Despite the news being a day old, it was still news that in some cases had already been verified by the radio station’s investigative news department. Plus we also had a weekly newspaper and those glossy magazines that took readers on fact-finding missions outside our normal environment.

Television news as I remember came long as I approached my teen years and I have to confess the news took a back seat to the teen shows produced in Moose Jaw. I envied the go-go dancers in their flashy white boots. In fact I wanted a pair of those boots but my weak ankles were a deterrent to such a fashion statement.

But back to the news: the TV news broadcasts came from the local stations and then at a later evening hour, the national news came into our home. There was a rule: don’t talk or make noise when the news in on air, and don’t clip from the newspaper until you’re sure everyone has read all the pages.

By watching, listening and reading the news, I became familiar with Moose Jaw’s leadership, knew about what Moose Jaw City Council was up to and why, and knew all the names of provincial MLAs, what parties they represented and which ones were worthy of votes in various elections. We learned when new stores would open, the dates of events we might like to attend and in sports, who on the hockey or ball teams were the stars.

On those early TV news shows, one thing I never noticed was a line of individuals behind the speaker, nodding their heads at the appropriate time, sometimes smiling, other times as sober as judges.

But take a moment to observe during the next news conference of a provincial or national politician and there they will be: lined up like crows on a clothesline, hands folded, and ears trained on the speaker. 

Are they the back-up singers for the speaker? Are they there so it looks like the speaker has friends? Does the speaker know they are there behind him? Does he/she worry those groupies might smile at the wrong time or laugh inappropriately when a serious paragraph in the prepared news statement is reached? Do they earn extra cash for making those appearances? If the speaker ducks down will they surge forward to take the onslaught of rotten tomatoes?

Those are serious questions to be pondered.

To my mind, they are a distraction to the news event of the moment. My eyes can’t help but meander to the man at the end of the row, the one wearing a blue suit with an ugly purple tie. Or to the woman whose heavily rouged cheeks clash with her red hair and green dress. Then there’s the fellow who keeps looking off-stage, perhaps searching for the washroom sign. 

Darn: By staring at those people I likely missed important information from the speaker about whatever message was being imparted. 

I googled the appropriate question about why they are there and found considerable information about how to organize a news/media conference but not one word about saving space for the speaker’s friends to be part of the photo opportunity. 

Those selected must have special training for their roles: just watch when the speaker leaves the room — they fall in line and march out like well-trained soldiers.
A puzzle, indeed.

Joyce Walter can be reached at

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks