Vice News Tonight had its first episode last night on HBO, and it’s apparent that the company’s millennial-based news show caters heavy to the era of the internet.
The problem is, the internet already exists, and it’s free!
Vice has always been great at monetizing the latest millennial/internet trends, but with its new HBO show, some might feel they want their money back. In an effort to be the “first modern news show,” they’ve stripped the form of many of the things that define it; notably anchors, sponsors, and censorship. Now it’s always good to hear that your news source doesn’t accept the wealth of some (or many) massive corporate entities that may or may not affect how and what is said on air. This problem can also tie into censorship, which is something Vice does a very good job of not participating in. But for this writer, the idea that a desk anchor somehow hinders the headlines isn’t necessarily right.
Many of the flaws in Vice News Tonight come from a lack of foundation. Often it feels like the show is sliding back and forth between many stories that don’t get quite enough airtime each to count, while also having a hard time switching tone from a story that did get proper coverage. But maybe this is just a symptom of lifting-off a brand new show, in all honesty this is a premiere episode of a nightly series and often this format needs time to grow. On the other hand, foundation is the sole job of the desk anchor, to keep the show grounded and to transition from one story to the next (often moving between solemnity and humor.)
The aforementioned airtime of each story is another problem altogether. In playing to the strengths (and serious weaknesses) of Millennial attention spans, the show flies through stories like it’s skimming the Times in search of the art section. This is troubling, because if it really is “the first modern news show” then the future looks relatively uninformative.
To be fair, they have completely revamped their website so that audiences can follow along with the show and fill in any details they might be curious about while watching. The issue, at least in our opinion, is that it’s an option that already exists! This isn’t a new idea. Twitter is running all day long next to the news, and every publication has a website to match. Hell, Vice itself already uses vice.com/news to follow up on many of their videos and stories. The problem in this case, is that you have to pay for the headlines in the form of an HBO subscription. Sure, their website is free–but if that’s where all the real content is, then why do we need the new show? It’s a question that’s gonna require some more episodes before it can be answered.
It seems Vice is trying to fill a very empty void left by Jon Stewart, not in terms of structure or content, but of audience outreach. Millennials have lost a home in the news world, and Vice wants to take us in. But if it ever wants to reach the illuminating and entertaining heights of the classic Daily Show, it’s gonna need some serious work to get there. Work that includes real time spent on real content, because Vice’s uncensored headlines aren’t telling us much more than someone else’s censored story. And a show full of specials isn’t that special after all.