nVNews does not currently use PHP or MySQL. We use Perl CGI scripts and a delimited text file for a DB. I am working on a replacement PHP/MySQL system in my spare time.
One good thing that our CGI scripts do is generate the news html into a text file. This file is then just included as a server-side include into the home page. This means that the only time any scripts run is when the news is updated. Regular visitors just access a static page.
Most PHP news solutions run a script and do database access every single time a user visits a page. This approach uses up a lot of system resources. To try and compensate for the performance sys admins install things like PHP accelerator, which introduce their own share of problems and security issues.
Still, PHP and MySQL is a nice combo to learn. They work well together, and PHP is an easy language to pick up.
Core2 Q9400 @ 3.0, eVGA GTX 260, 4G DDR 800, Vista64