Vice co-founder Shane Smith says his controversial new HBO documentary series is "not traditional journalism." Let's get real: three white guys reporting on international politics is about as traditional as you can get.
In the eight episodes of "Vice," premiering Friday on HBO, there will be blood, graphic violence, bullet-proof vests, and several pairs of sunglasses. There will not, however, be a single female correspondent, a source close to production confirmed to Yahoo! Shine. That's a pretty old-school decision for a show looking to smash the barriers of traditional journalism.
Executive produced by Bill Maher with the help of consulting producer Fareed Zakaria (a "real-deal newsman's man" according to a Vice blogger), each episode sends "Vice guys" overseas for a glimpse at the characters behind countries in conflict. Smith interviews Afghanistan's child suicide bombers and literally toes the line of the Pakistani-Indian border. Duffy visits a make-shift arms manufacturer in the Philippines, and Morton trails North Korean women attempting to escape sex trafficking in China.
The lack of diversity in that segment is particularly glaring. Morton's fixation with the women's escape route—and the cameraman's fixation with Morton's stylish nerd glasses—makes the episode feel more like an extreme travel show than hard-hitting news.
Smith did have plans to send a female correspondent to Egypt, according to an interview published Friday on The Hollywood Reporter's website. "We pulled that shoot because we couldn’t guarantee safety," Smith explained. "We’re very careful about our stories and our correspondents."
Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism. She calls Vice's brand of reporting "white hyper-Westernized, misogynistic, and upper-class."
"For me, those characteristics create a warped world view whether the correspondent is male or female," Cross tells Shine. "That bias leads to the reportage of provocation instead of the kind of reporting that helps [viewers] understand what's going on." The show has already been criticized for questionable approaches to access and graphic depictions of mutilation.
And that, folks, may be the future of broadcast journalism. Smith, the show's host and creator, told The Guardian he wants to "build the next CNN with Vice." With all the hype the show is getting even before it's aired, it could happen. The series is the latest spawn of Smith's cool kid media conglomerate geared largely to a young male audience.
If HBO wants to tackle that demographic, it isn't surprising—everyone's doing it. What's strange is its decision to green-light "Vice's" all male, all white line-up of reporters. But Nina Rosenstein, HBO's programming executive for the series, is optimistic about "Vice's" ability to reach a wider audience than it reflects.
“We premiered this at the Time Warner center on Tuesday night, and I can tell you from the response in that room that this show defies being labeled by specific viewer type, be it age or gender," Rosenstein told Yahoo! Shine via email. "These are fascinating global stories that we think will appeal to a broad range of viewers.”
"Vice," to its credit, doesn't pretend to be balanced or too concerned with audience approval ratings. It's not "The Today Show." But having a diverse representation of reporters isn't just about filling a quota or pleasing a focus group, it's about telling a rounded story. If "Vice" really wants to "expose the absurdity of the modern condition," it should start with a more modern team of reporters.