Now a multinational, multimedia powerhouse, Vice began in 1994 as an independent magazine called Voice of Montréal with the intention of covering perspectives that were underrepresented in traditional print media. Twenty-three years, an expansion into digital video, television, music, and one less letter later, the voices themselves have changed, but the mission has not.
It is not just the points of view featured throughout all of Vice’s platforms that are atypical. On Jan. 12, 2017, at NYWICI’s Behind the Scenes tour @ Vice, looking out the opened garage doors of Vice’s Williamsburg office at the New York skyline — a gaggle of female communications’ students and professionals that I had just met around me — I felt as though I had just gone through the gates of a Disneyland for millennials. And I’m not the only one who felt that way: Brian Morrissey, editor in chief of Digiday, called Vice “basically a millennial whisperer.”
In the last couple of years, my idea of what working at an office is like has changed significantly. For a long time, I imagined it was just suited people sitting in cubicles typing on a keyboard from nine to five. As a creative person, the idea horrified me. But now, when I think of an office, my mind envisions long, shared tables, cool individuals with tattoos and retro glasses — and probably a Ping-Pong table.
Maybe earlier generations only had the first office scenario to look forward to. But with the advent of companies like Vice, the latter office scenario is more attainable to the creative, free-spirited minority — also known as the millennial, the latest underrepresented voice Vice has chosen to cover.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “vice versa” before; it’s actually Latin for “the other way around.” In fact, Vice did evolve in an unusual direction, starting with print and moving into digital video and most recently television. But Vice has actually done much more than that.
It’s a cliché that the squeakiest wheel gets the oil, and for majority demographics, that’s certainly true. Most news and media entertainment sources cater to what they think is popular, which results in a lot of the same things for all the same people. Unlike the rest, Vice doesn’t create its content for the squeakiest wheels.
Perhaps the most telling part of the tour was seeing the wall of Vice magazine covers. Every cover from 1994 to present day was displayed, creating a mosaic of glossy, colorful photographs starring a diverse cast. One of our guides pointed out her favorite, a women’s-only issue that was not a stereotypical “girl’s magazine”, filled with photos of cosmetics, clothes and boys, but rather a far-reaching “print museum” of sorts of the work of thirty-eight female photographers. Vice saw that female artists were underrepresented, and they dedicated an entire issue to them.
Vice Account Executive Liz Mantel revealed the extent to which Vice cares about audiences, who are disappointed with the content available to them. According to a study she cited, 90% of women are not satisfied with what they see. In response to this irksome statistic, Vice worked to create verticals that would provide intelligent, mature and interesting material to fill gaps in programming.
And big news and entertainment sources are seeing the impact such a philosophy can have. For example, during the tour we were brought to a wall of glass, through which we could see a small room covered in screens, all displaying various sources of news. We were told that this is where Vice’s daily HBO news segment was created, from start to finish. It was clear by the sighs and longing looks that several of us could see ourselves behind the glass, researching, writing and editing at Vice desktops.
Overall, the tour provided a fascinating and illuminating insight into how communications as a field has evolved, as well as a glimpse as to where it might be going. Through Vice’s looking glass, the outlines of our reflections staring back at us, I believe that we, NYWICI women, felt a little more represented.