The Verge fails to examine Vice Media’s downfall

April 3, 2024

By Tim Worstall

A good example of what’s wrong with modern progressive journalism is that those who do it seem not to realize why it goes wrong. “Physician know thyself” is very old advice, and given the way journalists insist they know how to run the world, it would be good advice.

Our example today comes from The Verge. For the story, its intrepid reporter spoke to 20 people. Got their stories and there are some interesting snippets there, too, about NetJets accounts or not. We also get treated to a couple of paragraphs about how journalistic ethics mean it’s just fine to quote people anonymously and so on.

This is all by precisely the standards those journalism grad schools insist upon. There’s also the usual dose of woke and progressivism:

Vice employed a lot of talented people at its lower levels. But any attempt to look at the company’s finances suggests a long history of issues at the very top. Vice Media’s overall business had been rickety for years before it filed for bankruptcy in May 2023 and sold itself to Fortress, an investment management firm.

The workers were and are great, let down by the capitalist and management class. Of course.

The problem with the story is that it doesn’t explain what went wrong. Sure, sometimes the corporate credit cards didn’t work – but why? Vice raised vast amounts of capital but went bust – why? Huge corporates were willing to buy Vice and then weren’t – why?

This is the part that journalism is supposed to explain—that “why” part of the universe. Sure, in the lede, who, when, where, what—but the whole thing is supposed to lead to that “why?” This is exactly what this piece doesn’t do, and, sad to say, this is also what’s wrong with so much modern journalism.

The answer, of course, is that Vice was a business. People were willing to pay less for its output than it cost to produce. And that’s it, that’s all.

We can go on a bit and ask why. As it turns out, the output of woke and progressive journalists isn’t worth much, but they can surely cost enough. So, well, there it is.

Or, as we and others have been known to say, “Go woke, go broke”. Which is exactly what Vice did. From a $5.7 billion valuation to being bought for the debt they owed the bank. Shrug.

Except there’s a lesson here for us all: For one set of us, there’s just that base idea, woke to broke, and Vice is just the latest example. For another set, those still in journalism, a little advice: Try to expend a little effort on the “why” of things. Not only would it mean doing the job better, but it will also help you understand things when that woke-to-broke comes for you, too.     


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