Book Review: It's All News to Me

So this is a slightly different review for me.  While we were on holiday in the summer we picked up Jeremy Vine's autobiography and I've just now finished reading it.

It's really an autobiography focused on his 25 years at the BBC including his time as a political correspondent, an African correspondent, a Newsnight presenter and how he replaced Jimmy Young on Radio 2.

He has very little focus on his personal life, with just occasional asides about it.  In fact, his main aim seems to be to draw journalistic lessons from his experiences, which he characterises a rules - some more serious than others.

Now the reality is you can go into any charity shop (as we did) and buy any number of modern-day autobiographies.  The big question is whether they are worth reading or not.

Let me suggest a few reasons why this might be.

  • The media and especially the BBC are pretty important in 21st Century Britain.  Having an informed insider cast a light on it is useful and interesting.
  • Vine has had a pretty varied experience at the BBC and actually the things he is perhaps less remembered for (especially Africa correspondent) can be quite enlightening (e.g. how news about terrible things around the world gets dropped for western news programmes).
  • It is very engagingly written and easy to read.  A decent reader (unlike me) would get through it in no time!
There are some obvious weaknesses especially with respect to understanding the media:
  • Although Vine writes openly as a Christian and he does engage with the ethics of journalism, he really struggles to analyse the big questions of his work with a great deal of insight.  I think he simply doesn't have a worldview integrated with his work.
  • He is actually somewhat limited by focusing only on himself and thus only on the BBC.  Of course that's fair enough in the context of an autobiography, but...
Anyway, I enjoyed the read.  I was also disturbed by it, in a good way, I think, as it reminded me how much of the media forms our opinions and yet what a dubious process it is!


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