Vice debuts its nightly newscast on HBO

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

NEW YORK (AP) — Vice Media launched a daily newscast Monday designed to appeal to younger viewers with colorful graphics, a light musical soundtrack, no on-camera newsreader and reports on topics ranging from the second presidential debate to a strike by prison inmates in Alabama.

The debut of "Vice News Tonight" featured a correspondent in a nose ring who tied Hurricane Matthew to climate change.

Vice, an upstart media company known for its in-your-face international reporting, is looking to shake up television's daily news diet. Its newscast is airing weeknights on HBO at 7:30 p.m. ET. That's after the more traditional newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC, which have been on the air for decades and attract primarily an older audience.

From the start, "Vice News Tonight" quickly dispensed with the traditions of network newcasts. There was no modern-day anchor equivalent to Lester Holt or David Muir; only a woman narrator who was not seen or identified.

There was no "lead story," as the narrator opened with quick headlines about France calling for an investigation into war-torn Syria, the drug company Mylan settling an investigation over EpiPen rebates, student demonstrations in South Africa and Samsung suspending production of its troubled Galaxy 7 smartphone.

Sunday night's presidential debate received the most airtime, but "Vice News Tonight" circled around the story in different ways: correspondent Michael Moynihan watched the debate with Glenn Beck at the conservative commentator's Idaho ranch, where Beck revealed he's considered — but rejected — voting for Hillary Clinton. Evan McMorris-Santoro reported from a Trump rally in Pennsylvania, and there was a review of what created waves online, including expressions of surprise "that there was an apparent undecided Muslim voter in America."

Stories took on different lengths and forms: a short report on the British government banning Apple watches from meetings was told with illustrations, printed words and the voiceover. A story on the merger of two beer companies was colorfully illustrated by pictures of clinking beer mugs and young people chugging the product.

One of the longer pieces, about prison unrest in the South, featured a video interview with a prisoner conducted over a contraband cellphone, as well as an interview with a former prison guard who showed a collection of makeshift weapons that he had confiscated from prisoners.

"You probably haven't heard much about" the strike, Vice said, "because for the most part, people on the outside don't know much about what's going on behind prison doors."

That's a Vice signature, taking its followers to places they wouldn't normally see for a visceral experience.

The show also featured a more traditional economic investigation, with a long-time Wells Fargo employee telling about how he alerted bank executives in 2005 about what he thought was a one-time outlier: a customer who complained that accounts were opened for him without his knowledge at one of the bank's branches. He got no reply from an executive, who was later ousted in the wake of the wider scandal over pressure to open accounts.

The nose-ringed correspondent, Arielle Duhaime-Ross, used Hurricane Matthew as a backdrop to talk about stronger storms as a byproduct of climate change. Producers have promised that the effect of man-made changes to the earth's climate will be a big part of the show's mission.

"It's like putting a jet engine on a bulldozer," Duhaime-Ross explained. The story neglected, however, details on the ongoing flooding from Matthew in North Carolina.

Without commercials, the show isn't timed to a set length. Billed as a 30-minute newscast, it was done at 25 minutes and went off the air.