WASHINGTON — It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that the mainstream media thoroughly loathes Vice, the punk magazine turned global video empire.
The company, which has shot to fame on the back of documentary video segments about the weird, the violent and the bizarre, has managed to succeed where its mainstream rivals have failed spectacularly: creating news video packages that both appeal to and entertain young people. In doing so, they’ve brought what might be described as a unique sensibility to online news: distinctly subjective, featuring hand-held cameras, typically laced with profanity, often featuring drug use, in little-known corners of the world. A selection of their recent documentary offerings include Life as a Truck Stop Stripper and Heroin Holiday in the Czech Republic, but also extensive coverage of both the crisis in Crimea and the protest movement in Venezuela.
Vice’s video offerings have long had a news bent to them, providing jaundiced, often very funny dispatches on themes loosely tied to current events. Now, the company is doubling down on that sensibility and has launched a news vertical, titled, you guessed it, Vice News. But through a partnership with HBO — in addition to a slew of other channels — Vice has extended its reach beyond the web and has established its bona fides as a global media player capable of competing against bigger outlets with deeper experience in video journalism — think CNN, al Jazeera, MSNBC, etc.
That partnership is perhaps best known for bringing together North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un and the mercurial former NBA great Dennis Rodman. Last week, the show aired a segment on the impact of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and the degree to which the Taliban has successfully used the strikes as a recruiting tool. Slowly but surely, Vice is edging in on territory typically dominated by more established media outlets.
"If you turn on the TV right now and turn to CNN, chances are you’re going to end up getting six hours about the Malaysian airliner," Suroosh Alvi, one of Vice’s co-founders and the host of last week’s segment about drone strikes, told Foreign Policy. "I’m actually stunned as to the volume of coverage about this plane. It’s like nothing else is happening in the world. They are thereby making our jobs very easy to give our audience what they want, which is stories about the rest of the world."