The brief was to get an interview with a journalist whose career we aspired to emulate. Scribbled on my page of notes, seconds after the task had been set, was this word – Vine. It was going to take a lot of persistence but I thought there was a chance I might pull it off – what I didn’t foresee was getting a reply from the man himself. We set a date for a few mornings later and it was decided I’d call at 10.40.
At 10.39 I was dialing – as if I was going to keep Jeremy Vine waiting! He picks up the phone, expecting me, and says he’s happy to help but we have to make it quick. This was my inauguration into the real world of Journalism; hours of contacting the right people, hours of prep for just a ten minute phone-call and it all came down to a matter of seconds.
Jeremy was three years older than I am now when he secured an internship with the BBC as a News trainee in 1987. He went on to report the Today programme and present Newsnight, while his self-titled music and current affairs programme on Radio 2 won him the Speech Broadcaster of the Year award in 2005. He is a self-professed ‘news junkie,’ saying “I think it’s a given in my job. I love news; I’ve worked in news all my life.”
Unsurprisingly, given his body of work, Vine says his particular interest lies in Politics. “I see it as a sort of human drama at Westminster. It’s fascinating to see how power arranges itself.” Meanwhile, I have to admit that it is a subject I sometimes struggle to get my head around. But as he tells me his fascination only developed while he was studying English at Durham University, I am reassured that all hope is not lost.
Offering sound advice from the top of the career ladder, he said, “Don’t take no for an answer, get outside the M25 and take an interest in people – listen to people.”
I had to ask him if he’d faced the same financial struggle as all journalists. I’ve wondered before now if there is an element of Hollywood within the Media world, where a select few make the big bucks and the rest are working just to scrape by. But he chose not to comment on his wage and I left it at that, whilst making a mental note to make better use of his advice about not taking no for an answer next time.
Time was ticking on and despite the rush, I still needed to know one thing; if he’d ever faced the same scepticism that I had already, with people so convinced by the age-old stigma surrounding journalists that they can’t help but pass a snide look or comment on hearing that I’m training to become one. “I think BBC journalists have a good reputation.” he replies. “Attitudes towards journalists, in my experience, are largely positive.” A simple statement, but that, coming from Jeremy Vine, was reassurance enough.
I remember exactly that at 10.42 I put down the phone feeling a little bit wiser. My head spun, trying to take in the significance of what had just happened – I’d just hung up on a household name and a man whose career I frankly could not fault.
Looking back, the experience taught me three invaluable lessons.
The first – that there were ways to escape the social stereotypes of journalists, which meant I would never lose another night’s sleep over that.
The second – that 200 seconds is a fleeting instance in real life, but a blessing in the world of journalism.
And, critically, the third – that I would never, ever again – regardless of lesson two above – forget to ask if it’d be better to call back later.