VICE: MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY?

I remember knowing Vice as a young teenager. Back then, it was a mysterious, alluring hotbed of counterculture, which published books filled with cocaine fueled party tricks and blowjob tutorials.
Insidiously, for better or worse, it has become one of the biggest and most unique media conglomerates.
While the counterculture label remains, they are pretty straightforward in their capitalism. They also historically treat their employees questionably and pay way below the margin. This might be why the quality of journalism is often barely there.
As I grew older, in New York, I’ve come to know people, particularly film people, who shoot their video content. It seems that is their main medium at this point, with their plethora of original series and edgy expository news pieces.
I was pretty interested to hear that as of last month, the media workers are now unionizing, joining the writers and editors guilds respectively, and it’s been approved on both sides.
I think this is a big step for Vice—they know that some of their employees are worth more than they’re getting, and they are churning out the content that people now look to Vice for.
While the company still produces a lot of garbage, mostly in the form of filler articles on twitter which have no real arch or point, the video content is generally really compelling.
The Mierzejewska and Shaver text comes to mind in the sense that Vice applies to almost all of the 10 “changes” they list and can be considered a “media firm”. What’s interesting is the “content segmentation” (Mierzejewska & Shaver, 48) gap is closing with Vice. While they have shifted to almost exclusively free web video content, it should be worth noting that they are now valued at an estimated $6 billion with the help of private investors and—most notably, a television channel deal with HBO specializing in ever popular documentaries. Key shareholders are Facebook and Google. (Varian)
This will be interesting to see how the company (hopefully) continues to evolve. Generally when people are secure in their position and treated well, they have more motivation to go above and beyond. This is a really unique opportunity.
I do wonder what will happen to the other workers who were laid off, or if the unionized workers will move on.
A spokesperson for Vice said in a statement that the company would work with all its employees to “continue to advance a shared mission to make Vice home to the most innovative, entrepreneurial and progressive minds in media.” (Ng)

-Chelsea Kane

References:

Bozena Mierzejewska & Dan Shaver. “Key Changes Impacting Media Management Research.” International Journal of Media Management 16 (2014). Print.

Ng, David. “Vice Media video workers to unionize with writers and editors guilds” LA Times. September 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-vice-media-wga-20170921-story.html

Varian, Ethan. “Vice Media raises $450 million, bumping valuation to near $6 billion”. LA Times, June 2017. http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-vice-raises-tpg20170619-story.html

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