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Have We Unleashed a Monster? Subverting Journalism: Embeded Reporters and the CIA

You recently began something called Vice News. How is it different from what Vice already does? Through YouTube, we learned that our audience wants more news. So news is going to be its own offering. It’s a new site with long-form video, short-form video, shows on the environment, economics, conflict.

Vice was a hip magazine, and now it’s a media company that works directly with corporations, which is sort of necessarily unhip. When we started the magazine, we had to have one page of ads for every page of content. That was our rule. We learned very early on you can’t be precious about that, because then you don’t have a thing. Partnering with a brand is just a smarter way of doing it.

You’ve said that objective news is impossible because no one is really objective. I grew up in Canada, and I live in New York. When I go to cover something in Afghanistan or in Iraq, I don’t know all the facts. I don’t know both sides of the story. It’s impossible to.

But don’t you think that’s why journalism has strict rules — precisely because no one can be objective? I understand it, and people can try to do that, for sure. I don’t believe in it myself. It’s fake, so we don’t do it. Then the journalism establishment says, “Unless you do news the way we do it, it’s not news.” I think that’s stupid.

How is Vice going to cover, say, monetary policy? That’s a good question. We’re not going to cover monetary policy. For us, we embed with Occupy Wall Street, the communists, the young people.

What do you think of the criticism of the first season of “Vice” on HBO? The criticism I thought was funny was about us taking Dennis Rodman to North Korea. They were damning the show before they had seen it, calling us stunt journalists. Meanwhile, the BBC tried to sneak into North Korea using students as cover.

Before the first season aired, you told Charlie Rose that you had an interview with Kim Jong-un, but it never materialized. What happened? We did interview him, but we didn’t get it on camera. We had a three-hour dinner with the guy, but we weren’t allowed to bring anything in. You couldn’t bring keys in, you couldn’t bring credit cards. We were supposed to get the footage from the North Korean television agency, but they didn’t give it to us.

Rodman has since gone back to North Korea without Vice. Do you feel as if you’ve unleashed a monster? Rodman went for three days. We were there for 10 days to shoot. Have we unleashed a monster? Probably. The guy has a well-documented alcohol problem, and I hope he gets better. I mean, we knew that they loved the Bulls, but most of the Bulls didn’t want to go.
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Recent Comments
25 March 2014

Heaven help us if Shane Smith represents the future of journalism. Just listen to him: “Look, economic disparity is bad. But we’ve already…
24 March 2014

This just reflects the sad trend of dumbing down news. The sadder truth is that there are viewers who actually demand this type of content….
Ted Pikul
23 March 2014

Good lord. Land-speed record for throwing co-conspirator Rodman under the bus – complete with ad hominem attack.Vice was a guilty pleasure…

Did you ask Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen?
Yeah, Jordan and Pippen. They said no.

You believe that young people worldwide are disenfranchised. Do you think popular uprisings will fix things? No. I’m actually worried, because I believe that it’s going to get worse. Look, economic disparity is bad. But we’ve already tried having governments redistribute wealth. We tried it in Russia and China to disastrous effect.

News Corp. bought a 5 percent stake in Vice, and now James Murdoch is on the board. Why did you sell to them? I’ve said that I want to be the next MTV, the next CNN, the next ESPN. Cue everyone rolling their eyes. MTV went to Viacom, ESPN went to Disney and Hearst, CNN went to Time Warner. Why? Because to build a global media brand, it’s almost impossible to do it alone. James has been involved in one of the largest media companies in the world since he was in short pants.

Do you ever fear that Vice will become legacy media itself? It’s our time now. Then, I don’t know, it’ll be holograms next, and some kid will come up and eat our lunch.

Interview From New York Magazine

Picture of Steven Smith Vice Founder with Qatari Army Officer and Al_Qaeda Fighters in Libya in 2011



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