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Deputy editor, special projects, Consumer Reports
Major in International Relations
“You know we're too poor to buy cheap things,” Brian Vines’ grandmother once told him. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that he has made it his mission to help others find good value for products and services as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports.
“My position explores marketplace inequities,” Vines ’00 said. “I look at the systemic and individual factors that make the marketplace less fair, just, or safe for people. We look at the marketplace as a whole and see the ways in which people are not getting the full value of goods and services that they pay for.”
Consumer Reports is a nonprofit organization that focuses on independent product testing. Most people are familiar with the monthly magazine or website that they may access before they make a large purchase, but the organization includes a team of investigative journalists who look at forces that affect consumers. Vines has reported on a number of issues including the proliferation of dollar stores during the pandemic, and he recently appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss home security systems.
“We were looking at home security systems and the do-it-yourself models as the sort of democratization of security,” he said. The broader idea, said Vines, is that not everyone can afford a wired home security system that contracts with a vendor to monitor their home. Many new systems allow you to buy a system outright that you can take with you as you move from place to place and can be monitored from your cell phone.
“It’s part of a larger framework around insurance and the fact that the majority of American homeowners are underinsured by a factor of 27, according to a survey Consumer Reports undertook. We want people to make sure that they're not being taken advantage of by their insurance coverage or lack thereof, and one of the easier ways to reduce your homeowners’ insurance premiums is to get a security system.”
Connections Lead to Knox
Vines is a first-generation college student from the South Side of Chicago. He participated in the Free Street Theater in Chicago, where he met Valentina Gamboa-Turner ’98, who told him about Knox. When it came time for him to go to college, Knox seemed like a clear choice.
He majored in international relations and traveled to Zimbabwe to study in a program about emerging democracies. However, his participation in the McNair Scholars Program, which prepares underrepresented students for graduate school, set him on his journalistic career.
Flor “Cuqui” Frau was the associate director at the time and she encouraged him to pursue research.
“I did a summer of research at NYU with Sasha Torres, a professor of television and that was transformative,” Vines said. “The McNair program changed my life and put me on the path that I'm still tumbling down today.”
Vines is also an Emmy Award winner who received a master’s in broadcast journalism from Boston University and moved to New York, where he worked at a number of TV outlets, including CNN, NYC-TV, and BRIC-TV before moving to Consumer Reports.
Friends for a Lifetime
Knox friendships remain strong and Vines often points his colleagues to his classmates for story material.
“I connected Hilary Anderson ’00 with one of my colleagues who was writing about raising backyard chickens,” Vines said. “My Knox friends are my friends for a lifetime and they are people who I'm regularly in touch with, so if my colleagues are looking for a source, I tell them ‘Oh, you should talk to my friend.’”
Vines is thrilled to see the success of many of his classmates, including Andrea Arrington ’00, associate professor of history at Indiana State University, and Matt Berg ’00, co-founder and chief executive officer of the social enterprise technology company Ona, who were part of the program in Zimbabwe.
“My friends from Knox are doing so many tremendous things and they have devoted their lives to really deeply impactful things on a person-to-person level like Jessica Hirth-Meristil ’00 and Leontyne Miller ’00, working with young people, and Paul Perales ’00 in social work,” Vines said. “It’s similar to the way that I was impacted at Knox on a person-to-person level. I didn't major in theatre, but Liz Carlin-Metz, Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre, was so kind and wonderful to me during the mainstage production of Death and the Kings Horseman. Fred Hord, professor emeritus of Africana studies, was such a tremendous mentor to me, as was Association for Black Culture Centers Executive Assistant Terry Duffy. “I’ll also never forget Henry, Mary and the rest of the staff at the caf where I worked my freshman year.
“I know that I was fortunate to receive the education that I had at Knox, in the classroom and beyond. Some of the best people I know are the ones I met as an 18-year-old kid who was dropped off in the parking lot by Seymour Hall and then was introduced to a whole new world. I'm really fortunate, and I hope that other people have that opportunity.”