Jeremy Vine: from astronomer to astronaut

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Last Friday, Durham graduate and esteemed Journalist visited the Durham Union to share his views on the future of journalism and media in the stratified landscape of social media and the internet.

Vine presents the Vine Show on Channel 5, the show on Radio 2, and the popular quiz show ‘Eggheads’, alongside enjoying a long and var-
ied career in journalism.

Last Friday, he visited the Durham Union to share his views on TBCLC: Trump, Brexit, Corbyn and Leicester City. In this age of unpredictability, the words on the average Radio 2 listener’s lips are all too often: “What’s going on?” According to Vine, the answer is simple: you’re going on.

The supposed knowledge of the expert, the control of the statesman and the influence of the spin doctor have all been stripped away in an era in which the accessibility of information has inverted the traditional power balance between those who inform and those who are informed.

Vine perceptively noted that in his days at the Coventry Evening Telegraph and later the BBC, the newspapers ‘told’ you something, now the key word in the news is not ‘tell’ but ‘share’.

The accessibility of information has inverted the traditional power balance between those who inform and those who are informed

Vine stated that, whilst the news does still operate in much the same manner, it does not inform readers and listeners as much as it imparts. News and journalism, as professions, have had to swallow their pride and operate on a level of equality, as opposed to superiority, with their consumers.

However, according to Vine, and perhaps to the chagrin of some
of his colleagues in established media, the death of the expert as unquestionable authority is something to be celebrated.

In an entertaining tale of how a friend of Vine’s avoided a heart attack by instructing doctors to operate on him before rather than after he had a heart attack, based merely on the knowledge of his prior family history, Vine aptly noted how those who may not be experts still have experience
which is often invaluable.

In Vine’s opinion, experience almost always trumps knowledge

As he put it: would you rather speak to an astronomer who has cultivated an extensive knowledge of space by studying it from afar, or an astronaut who has seen it with his own eyes and experienced it?

It is clear that in Vine’s opinion, experience almost always trumps knowledge. In his own words, we should be “listening to the listen-
ers”, and who could be a better authority on that than Vine who has 16 years of experience on BBC Radio 2?

It was excerpts from some of these calls which provided some of the most humorous events of Vine’s discussion, such as the caller who was on the verge of tears over the use of non-recyclable plastics, an expert attempting to explain away the pain but unfortunately only made the caller more distressed.

When asked about his biggest faux-pas, he recounted a listener who, in explaining why she agreed with circumcision, described the pain when her brother’s foreskin got trapped in his zip. Unfortunately, Vine misheard
zip for lift, creating some rather questionable mental images.

The talk was made yet more entertaining by a bag full of props, which included varied items such as one of the shoes Vine wore on Strictly Come Dancing with a hole in its side, demonstrating the extent of his dancing ability.

He also presented a chopping board engraved with ’s name and title which he had picked up for £30 because, although it was intended for , she got the chop, so to speak, before the engraver could give it to her.

Throughout the talk Vine cut a youthful figure; he was charismatic and engaging, with touches of self-deprecating humour peppered throughout. It was ultimately a thought-provoking and contemplative soliloquy on the state of modern journalism and the relationship between the media and the masses.

At times, we were reminded why the average listener of the show is 51, such as when he was momentarily shocked to find out that St Mary’s College was not in fact an all-female college anymore.

Vine cut a youthful figure; he was charismatic and engaging

Nevertheless, his age and wealth of experience in radio and journalism have clearly impressed upon him the concept that was the bedrock of his talk. Fundamentally, he discussed the idea that ‘ordinary people’ are not so ordinary after all, and that the future of media relies on recognising experience for what it is – an unattainable form of knowledge for most experts who observe from afar, but indispensable nonetheless.

Image courtesy of Durham Union

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