Integrity, your starter for ten

April 1, 2005

Hosting TV quiz shows may have helped cement the status of political interviewers such as Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys as "truth-seekers" in the public mind, an academic conference will be told next week, writes Paul Hill.

Michael Higgins of Sunderland University will take up the theme of celebrities in politics at the Political Studies Association conference in Leeds.

Dr Higgins will argue that, far from undermining their standing, the wider media work of top interviewers, going back to Robin Day, added to their reputation as "public advocates".

He will tell the conference that "celebrity need not be viewed as a negative development" that has dumbed down UK political life.

Dr Higgins told The Times Higher : "I argue that we need to look at the particular qualities that go into the construction of any given celebrity, and make our judgement on that basis.

"Whether deliberately or not, the 'celebrity Paxman' who writes The Political Animal or barks questions about organic chemistry and the history of art to startled students on University Challenge and so on sells the persona of a defender of political and scholarly integrity. This draws on the 'day-job Paxman' who demands clear answers from our politicians. Similarly with John Humphrys on Mastermind ."

The PSA conference runs from April 5 to 7.


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