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The 'public inquisitor' as media celebrity

Higgins, Michael (2010) The 'public inquisitor' as media celebrity. Cultural Politics, 6 (1). pp. 93-110. ISSN 1743-2197

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Abstract

This article looks at the development and utility of celebrity among high-profile political interviewers. Offering the revised description 'public inquisitor', the article presents an overview of the rise of the political interviewer as a celebrity form of the 'tribune of the people' (Clayman 2002). It focuses on the UK-based journalists and broadcasters Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys, and looks at the expansion of their professional activities and their attendant construction as media personalities. It argues that the forms of celebrity presented by Paxman and Humphrys draw upon discourses of integrity and authenticity associated with practices of advocacy, and suggests that their extension beyond the formal political realm into media genres traditionally excluded from the established political domain might work to consolidate the public inquisitor as a discursive figure. Therefore, while acknowledging that this depends on the effective management of individual media profiles, the article proposes a critical reappraisal of the place of the celebrity personae in political communication in order to account for the possibility of constructive modes of media performance.