‘Vice’ on HBO Takes Daredevil Journalism to Another Level

Yolian Cerquera


What’s it all about? Detached heads, child suicide bombers, militarized politicians, children carrying rocket launchers, and that’s only the first episode of this half-hour documentary series.  ‘Vice’ tackles international news by merging facts and culture shock to bring you as close as possible to becoming an eyewitness of the oddities that occur outside the Western world. These modern-day storytellers reveal many of the inequities that are masked by tradition, customs and society for the purpose of educating you.


 In 1994, Shane Smith co-founded the Montreal-based international culture magazine Vice, which he then moved to Brooklyn, New York, and expanded its reach through its YouTube channel, covering stories from the hunting of radioactive wild boars in the red forest of Chernobyl to exploring the sewers of Colombia that social “undesirables” used as a hideout from death squads on a mission to cleanse society.  For Vice, this marked a transition into political coverage around the world, which would “expose the absurdity of the modern condition."


At the screening at the HBO building in New York, correspondent Ryan “The Stone Cold Fox” Duffy toured a militia training camp in the Philippines that molds reckless, uneducated youth with a Superman “invincibility” syndrome into political assassins, giving it the highest homicide rate of any Asian country. Then, he flaunted his basketball skills in front of Kim Jung-un and Dennis Rodman in a friendly game between the Harlem Globetrotters and North Korean ball players (all of which occurred prior to the nuclear threats against South Korea).


Vice possesses a mixed-bag of stories loaded with thousands of news pitches that it receives daily from its 35 offices spread out across 18 countries, and which is reflected in the absurd, frightening and mind-bending situations the correspondents find themselves in.


So, for those who are expecting ongoing war zone coverage reminiscent of the Dan Rather golden days of journalism, which could become tiresome and fade interest, the burly and bearded Smith promised good storytelling, which although violent, is not sensationalistic, but true to the story.



Indeed it may be overshadowed by award-winners like 60 minutes, but the crew at Vice can certainly sit at the table with the news giants as they have marked their own trend aimed at changing the rules of how news is told.


For starters, they’re not primped TV personalities in suits, but sporty and youthful individuals with jazzy nicknames and an approachable demeanor that is not indicative of the ostensible fearlessness they show on camera during precarious situations, such as when risking kidnapping upon visiting a high-profile Taliban leader at his home in Pakistan and questioning his defense for using children to commit suicide bombings.


The personification of the ‘Vice’ bravado is correspondent Thomas “Baby Balls” Morton,  with glasses, a slim build and a non-intimidating height, has toughed it out in sketchy situations while traveling with human smugglers aiding North Korean defectors cross Thaliand into South Korea.



“I just have a beer,” he quipped when asked how he mentally prepares himself before going into an assignment where he could be jailed, attacked or worse.


Amid dark humor and a casual, yet professional, attitude ‘Vice’ has created a formula that creates an engaging, serious tone that makes it almost impossible for you not to be shaken by an interview with a North Korean girl whose first encounter with an American was in a gritty safehouse, and whose evident malnutrition was the least of her worries because if authorities discovered that she had defected, her family would pay the price.


Author Bio:

Yolian Cerquera is a contributing writer at Highbrow Magazine.

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