vice news
Credit: Image courtesy of Vice Media
VICE Media launched a news platform today dedicated to current affairs videos for a young, global audience.

VICE News joins the organisation's technology channel Motherboard and music channel Noisey, among others, as a subject-specific outlet with its own editorial team and distribution platforms.

"A lot of people have thought about this generation as an apathetic young generation that don't care about anything," Al Brown, VICE UK's head of video, told Journalism.co.uk.

"What we've proven is that they really do care about the issues of the world and are an extremely global generation, so when you create international current affairs pieces with the right voice they come flooding to you in droves."

Current affairs films and documentaries have "far outstripped" other types of content at VICE since the organisation moved to YouTube as its main video distribution platform in 2012, said Brown, and the launch of a dedicated platform is seen as an "evolution" of what the outlet had already been doing.

"If you look at the coverage from the Ukraine that's a really good example of how VICE news operates," he said. "Everything started to kick off in the Ukraine and very, very quickly we sent our news editor from the UK, Henry Langston, there with a camera person and using local journalists."

Langston and his colleagues distributed pictures and video through social media and live-streamed events as they pursued the story. Within "48 hours" they had published the long form documentary "Ukraine Burning", said Brown.



"That shows the commitment to the way that we want to operate," said Brown, "we want to get on the ground as quickly as possible and file reactive stories but we also want to make sure there's space for a longer form documentary that delves very deep into these subjects."

The multiplatform approach is central to how VICE News will reach its audience, he said, but a long-form documentary will always be the end goal as a "piece of record" that will continue to be relevant after the event.

But rather than "chasing the news cycle", Brown said VICE News will be looking to focus on under reported issues and topics which the VICE audience have an active interest in, organised on the website by topic or geographic region.

Alongside a daily 'news capsule' that goes 'beyond the headlines', VICE News will use its parent organisation's presence in 35 countries to react quickly to relevant news events and explore under-reported issues around the world.



"We think very carefully about what our resources are, where our offices are, where our best journalists are and what they can get us into that no one else can," said Brown.

"We don't run around hunting for the most dangerous, gnarly thing in the world, we're looking for things which we could get something from that no one else could. Often that is about access and location and being there quickly with the right tools to tell the story."

The majority of correspondents are established and experienced professionals. Brooklyn-based editor-in-chief Jason Mojica spent years with Al-Jazeera English and de facto European editor, Kevin Sutcliffe, was editor of Channel 4's Dispatches and deputy head of the outlet's news and current affairs department for over 10 years.

Ben Anderson, producer of the BBC's 'Holidays in the Axis of Evil'; Google Glass pioneer and protest reporter Tim Pool; and Aris Roussinos, who last year helped launch a register and training scheme for conflict reporters and was caught up in the Battle of Bor while reporting for Vice from South Sudan last month, are among those on the ground.



Despite the nature of VICE reporting – described by founder Shane Smith as "immersive" and elsewhere as "Gonzo journalism" – Brown said VICE are as "careful and compliant" as other media organisations. Risk assessments, security consultations and hostile environment training are prerequisites to any situation where they are deemed relevant.

"The reason there's a perceived risk is because we're not afraid of hiding how hard and dangerous some of these areas and situations are and actually showing it on camera," he said. "Our audience has always been very excited about the fact that we show the workings of what it is to be in these situations. What that feels like and what our journalists come up against is part of our films."

Brown stands by everything done in preparation for the situation in South Sudan and everything Roussinos and his team did on the ground in ensuring their safety but the fact is, he said, that risks are inherent to journalism.

"You can't take stupid risks but journalists have to take risks to find stories," he said. "Everyone has to be aware of those risks in that situation and any other news organisation would say the same thing."

Claiming an audience of 130 million across all channels, VICE Media will be pushing News as its flagship channel, said Brown, telling stories with the VICE voice but with the same devotion to accuracy and truth as any other news organisation.

"We run everything we do through fact checkers, legal and compliance and when you're working in the immersive way that we are, you're coming to see what a reporter thinks and feels about where they are and what effect that's having on them," said Brown. "That's a very important part of what we make.

"There's a difference between being opinionated and being wrong. We don't want to be wrong but we don't mind being opinionated."

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