They bring us bad news each day, every day - but still hold a special place in the hearts of TV viewers everywhere. Northern Ireland's news readers have been with us through some of the darkest times in our history. The small group of people trusted to front the news on our screens each night have become household names, almost as high profile as those they report on.
They have been tasked with breaking the news in some of the biggest moments in history, so we ask them why the public has such an affinity with newsreaders?
Former ITV News anchor Dermot Murnaghan announced the death of Princess Diana live on air in 1997, while Trevor McDonald reported on the 1988 murders of corporals Derek Howes and David Wood at an IRA funeral in west Belfast. It was BBC News' Nicholas Witchell who brought us the news of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Their newsreading was delivered in a calm, reassuring and comforting way, as viewers were glued to their television screens.
For UTV's Paul Clark (67) gaining the trust of the viewers isn't something that can be looked at in isolation. It comes down to the newsreaders' own experiences, getting the facts out to the public and the hard work put in by the entire newsroom team.
During what has been an unprecedented year with the Covid-19 pandemic, he explained that viewers are hanging on to newsreaders' every word and it is their responsibility to make sure they get it right.
"I don't think that anything that has been achieved in the area of presenting the news can be seen in isolation, because I'm only one part of the team and I couldn't do my job if I didn't have a team of correspondents and reporters with the gravitas that they have," says Paul.
"I'm only one part of the chain in that sense. It's not about Paul Clark and it never was. The news will always be more important than I am and I think I have to remain grounded in that fact; that the news is always going to be more important than me."
Paul, who worked with BBC Northern Ireland before joining UTV in 1989, hopes that with age comes experience as a newsreader - a role he loves dearly.
News anchors didn't just walk into the role; they really had to earn their stripes reporting in the field. And Paul feels all of those experiences have helped shape his style.
“I will always remember being down at Kingsmill on the night of that massacre and there’s an abiding memory I have from that night, and it’s half a set of false teeth lying in the road,” he explains. “That never leaves you — and that was in 1976. It’s as fresh in my mind as it was then.
“I can think of places like Omagh, Enniskillen, Loughinisland, Greysteel. I was there because it was part and parcel of your job. Whenever you’re reporting on that and when you’re reading it in the studio, you do have to keep your emotions in check because we are part of the same society and we all hurt.”
Alongside Paul sits co-host Rose Neill (62), who is the UK’s longest-standing newscaster at 44 years.
Reflecting on why the public has that bona fide trust in newsreaders, Rose used the Northern Irish expression that a newscaster won’t last long if “they get a notion about themselves”.
“They are only one link in the chain,” she says. “There’s the news editor and they have their reporters, engineers, floor managers, producers and directors. Without one link in that chain, the chain becomes weak, or broken. We all need each other.”
She felt that keeping public trust is all about putting personal opinions to one side as a newsreader.
Rose explained that she is simply the “conduit” between the news editor and the viewer and it is not her job to give a personal opinion on a story.
She recalled receiving a letter from a viewer around 25 years ago praising her interviewing technique as she was never “rude, aggressive, condescending or ingratiating”.
“That man’s words have remained with me to this day,” Rose adds. “There are certain newscasters who can be very rude to the people they’re interviewing and it doesn’t win them any trust or support.”
Sky News’ senior Ireland correspondent, David Blevins (50), felt particularly strongly about the never ending battle against fake news on social media.
He argued that, throughout history, news anchors have been regarded as “arbiters of the truth”, as people expect them to consider both versions of a story and present it with authority, while there have been those who have disputed facts as it didn’t suit their narrative.
David understands that newscasters must keep their emotions to one side, but wasn’t ashamed to admit that he became overwhelmed during his coverage of the Omagh bomb in 1998. As he was driving to the memorial in the town a week after the explosion, he had to pull his car over and let his emotions out.
“Impartiality doesn’t require you to switch off your emotions,” David says. “If you switch off your emotions, then I don’t believe your story is authentic. We all carry with us a little bit of our past: who we are, who are parents were, where we came from and how we were brought up.
“There’s a little bit of that in all of us and I think you can be accurate and you can be fair, but if you try to switch off your emotions your story won’t be authentic.
“There’s something important about that for people watching news anchors and correspondents as well — the need to feel that they are being genuine, they are themselves and they are authentic.”
Former BBC broadcaster Noel Thompson (65), who retired earlier this year after working there for four decades, explained that a newsreader is really a “mouthpiece” for the organisation they represent.
“The longer a newsreader works for an outlet the more he or she becomes identified with that organisation and the public’s trust is put in that person as a representative of the company,” he adds.
Noel stresses that it is a newsreader’s job to be professional, but says that sometimes emotions can get the better of you as “we’re all human beings”.
He recalled the deaths of the young Quinn brothers in a firebomb attack on their home in 1998 and the Omagh bombing victims’ funerals as two examples where he was close to being unable to continue live on air.
“I think sometimes, if it’s good news, if there ever is such a thing, you can get a bit carried away as well,” adds Noel. “I recall the Bill Clinton visit and, to a certain extent, we got a little bit caught up in the euphoria of that and you had to keep reminding yourself that not everyone thinks this is a good thing and it may not be a good thing.”
BBC Newsline news anchor and Radio Ulster Evening Extra presenter Tara Mills says there is a fine line between not becoming the story yourself through showing your emotion and taking away from the subject, but it’s hard to be immune.
Growing up watching the Troubles unfold on television, she says she had a “real trust” in those delivering the news to living rooms across Northern Ireland.
Particularly during the Covid-19 crisis, Tara says there has been a huge moral duty on newsreaders, the teams behind them and journalists everywhere to present that facts to the public and keep asking questions.
“That made the responsibility even more enormous to get it right and try our very best to make sure that the information we were giving out was correct,” she says.
“Tara took great pride and said she was “taken aback” with some of the comments she received from the public for BBC’s news coverage of the pandemic.
“You try to strike a balance by not making it too grim and reflecting on the good that happened this year, such as the Clap for Carers and the amazing sense of community spirit. People were out getting to know their neighbours — there have been some fantastic stories this year.”