Journalism Can Change Things | A Q&A with Leading Broadcaster Jeremy Vine

24 October 2017

The energetic and witty host of our recent Knowledge Guild event , Jeremy Vine's experience in news, politics and presenting popular BBC TV and radio shows means that he brims with insights and anecdotes on the stage.

Particularly celebrated for his BBC Radio 2 programme, The Jeremy Vine Show, Jeremy has also been hailed for presenting the likes BBC1's Points of View, BBC2’s Eggheads and his much-loved election graphics wizardry.

We caught up with him to find out more about his fascinating 30-year career at the BBC!

Hi Jeremy. Can you please introduce yourself?

Of course! My name's Jeremy Vine, and I have a show on BBC Radio 2 (The Jeremy Vine Show) where people call in and we talk about what's happening in the news headlines. I also host Crimewatch, Eggheads, Points of View, and I do the election graphics, which involve a lot of gesticulating...

What are some of the highs and lows of your career to date?

I think I've been really lucky with my career at the BBC. I started as a trainee in the 80s and then became a reporter for the Today programme. I was then a political correspondent when Tony Blair was arriving and John Major's government was falling apart, before taking on the role of Africa correspondent. Then, I was a Newsnight presenter alongside Jeremy Paxman, and then, my goodness Radio 2, with Crimewatch and Panorama and other programmes like that somewhere along the way. That's thirty years at the BBC... which is an awful lot of news!

A lot indeed! You've interviewed many individuals in the political sphere, including all the recent Prime Ministers. Any particularly memorable moments along the way?

Yes, I've spent a lot of time in the lobby of Westminster, interviewing a lot of politicians.

I remember interviewing Tony Blair when he was an MP, just before he became Prime Minister.

And then there was when I was interviewing Gordan Brown in the 2010 elections and it was revealed he'd been rude to a female pensioner and called her a bigot. The tape arrived as I was interviewing him, and he sort of slumped forward with his head in the hands - that became the key image of Labour's loss of power after 13 years.

In terms of your reporting, which are your most proud of?

I think the best report I ever did was in South Africa on undercover filming with the South African police. We had a work experience person in the office in Johannesburg who wanted to do something, so I said, "Why don't you go out with the South African police?" She came back with the most stunning footage of people being beaten up, having dogs set on them and cigarettes stubbed in their heads, and so on. As a result, more than a dozen officers were suspended, and Nelson Mandela, the then president, had to give a press conference about it.

I suddenly thought, 'journalism can change things'.

From your experience, how does that feed into your hosting and speaking style at events?

After thirty years at the BBC, I have a lot of news and political experience, but also along the way have experienced just the crazy, wonderful stuff that happens. (For example, when I was in Naples, Italy, I asked a spokeswoman, "Is crime in this city completely out of control?" and she replied, "No, it is in the control of four families!")

I've done a lot of after-dinner speaking, and, I have to say, I absolutely love it. When I get the brief from somebody, I always ask, "What happened last year?" and try to learn from that. And, of course, I always want to know "Who are the audience?", as tailoring is key! Don't just do the same speech every time.

Also, some of the best entertainment can come in a serious context; from someone who has done news and politics over the years, Africa, Newsnight, working with Paxman, interviewing Tony Blair, working on the Today programme back in the 80s. People are fascinated by what happens inside the BBC and how it works. Although some people might assume it needs to be serious, I actually often find about 9:45pm at night, after everyone's had dinner, an audience does want to be entertained!

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