Brian Vines, founder and host, ‘Going In With Brian Vines’His BRIC TV magazine show is designed to "get into the stream" of Brooklyn
“The underserved community, the overserved community–we meet them where they live,” says TV journalist Brian Vines about the variety of people he meets on his beat: the borough of Brooklyn. He’s the host of BRIC TV’s Going In With Brian Vines, a magazine-style show that takes viewers into the streets to hear Brooklynites talk about such topics as gentrification, institutional racism, and the tech boom. Along with launching his own show, Vines plays many roles at Emmy-winning BRIC TV, including senior correspondent and host of BK Live and the #BHeard Town Hall series. All told, BRIC is the city’s largest presenter of free cultural programming.
Vines sat down with us for our podcast to talk about his current work, but also his earliest days in journalism and storytelling. “My grandmother was blind, so when I was a kid I would do everything with my grandmother,” Vines says. “She was my life–and I was her eyes from the time I was a little boy. We would watch TV together, and my grandmother loved the news and soap operas. She taught me how to watch, because if someone was in the news, she was listening to the story, but she asked me what pictures they were showing, so she was creating a news producer without me even knowing it.”
Vines, from Chicago, earned his bachelor’s degree in international relations from Knox College in Illinois, but found himself drawn to journalism. “I won a fellowship my sophomore year and I did a media study,” he says. After spending a summer in New York City working with a professor of TV news at New York University, he was hooked. “I then applied to graduate school for journalism,” earning his masters degree from Boston University before moving back to New York.
While Vines has now lived and worked in Brooklyn for well over a decade, it wasn’t always his first choice. “I wanted to move to Harlem. My boyfriend at the time wanted to move to Brooklyn. We flipped a coin, saw a place in Harlem, saw a place in Brooklyn and Brooklyn won. It was the best thing that ever happened,” he says.
“Brooklyn has completely embraced me. I feel so at home here. When I moved to Bed-Stuy, I called my parents and said, ‘This is it. It’s just like home.’ There’s old people, there’s dogs, there’s kids, there’s messy people, there’s every other cousin. I feel so comfortable and I love it here. I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
Embracing a community is a large part of what Going In With Brian Vines is all about. The show, he says, “was about this idea of going inside issues, going inside people’s worlds where it can be sort of immersive and also thinking of new ideas.” While he feels comfortable working in a studio with a parade of personalities passing through, the Going In show is on a mission to “get into the stream,” he says.
A show about community in Brooklyn is naturally going to be talking about gentrification. Vines is no stranger to the topic. “I’m about 16 years in now. I do see that change. I remember being a youngster when I was first here in Brooklyn and I was in Williamsburg with all of my friends,” Vines recalls. “We were one of the early waves when you could only rent from old Italian families or Hasidic landlords, and now there are these spaceships that have landed right next to the old, horrible architecture that was there,” he says.
Borrowing a line from Ru Paul to describe the community’s changes, “It’s like if you went to your class reunion and your best friend had gender-reassignment surgery. You still know all about them, but it’s completely different at the same time. And that’s what it feels like sometimes walking around this place.”
Even with the tension and constant change, Vines sees the best in Brooklyn. “I’m from the Midwest. I know what it’s like to be nice and to get along. But I’m also from Chicago,” he says. “It’s the mix that happens in Brooklyn. We have the tension, we have the creativity. There are lots of things in flux right now. The best of what’s happening in this country is happening in Brooklyn.”–By Kora Feder