Wednesday, March 12, 2014

VICE: A Revolution In Journalism

VICE News is a 30 minute series on HBO and is starting its second season this Friday. As a combination of journalism and documentary filmmaking, the show focuses on providing immersive stories on huge world issues. The show's founders and correspondents pride themselves on being experts on youth culture. VICE is so unique in that they seek to reach the younger generation in a meaningful and productive manner. Correspondents go to the most dangerous areas in the world and tell in-depth, important stories. Their 30 minute shows cover issues completely and honestly.

VICE's founder Shane Smith is a journalist and and CEO of the Canadian magazine VICE as well. VICE's first season was extremely well-received and is now regarded as a legitimate news program. In an interview with The New York Times, Smith was described as "a cross between a punk rocker and Fortune 500 Executive". When asked whether he thought VICE would ever lose their pulse on youth culture, Smith recognized that his age will prevent him from remaining relevant and hopes someone else will pick up his job: "Will we eventually be old and shitty? Yes. [But] there is a changing of guard in every generation of media."

Last year, VICE organized Dennis Rodman's highly publicized trip to North Korea. With extremely strained relations, setting up a friendly U.S.-North Korea meeting was completely unexpected. It's incredible that a virtually no-name news organization like VICE could accomplish such a daunting task in their first year, and also ridiculous that Dennis Rodman was how they accomplished it. This is so creative. Who would think Dennis Rodman could be a pathway to communication with North Korea?

I think VICE's story and process are unbelievably creative.  As the CEO of an alternative youth culture magazine, Smith emphasizes the absurdness of his situation. He is not from a typical news outlet like CNN or BBC. His magazine originally focused on offbeat alternative culture and slowly transitioned into social criticism. As the CEO of an alternative youth culture magazine, Smith emphasizes the absurdness of his situation. VICE's mastery over serious, high-profile news coverage came almost out of nowhere. This is creativity. Accomplishing something unheard of and unconventional ways is the peak of creativity.

VICE doesn't just cover the news, they join it and even make it. Thomas Morton, a correspondent, joined North Korean defectors in their escape. When in North Korea with Dennis Rodman, correspondent Ryan Duffy joined the basketball game between American and North Korean players even though he was a horrible basketball player. In some ways, this points to Sawyer's ideas on improvisation. They didn't plan much; they only focused on the topics and providing honest, immersive coverage. Like Sawyer says, VICE has the opportunity to edit their work, however, their initial ideas and raw material is completely improvised and subject to change. Because their news coverage is so in-depth, they are highly reliant on changing variables. News stories change everyday and people are so unpredictable. VICE correspondents and staff need to rely completely on their creative improvisational skills in their ever changing and very dangerous news coverage.

VICE is creatively revolutionizing our news outlets which have become overrun by fluff stories and dictated by audience size. Through honesty, bravery and immersion, they are changing the depth and exposure of our news and an incredibly important time, and I think they are doing it incredibly well.

The show has already covered child suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Kashmir's line of control, post-war Iraq, defectors in North Korea, gang violence in Chicago and oil piracy in Nigeria. The second season will feature stories on Iran, Saudi Arabia and more.

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