Columns, Opinion

BERMAN: VICE News Tonight is today’s ideal news format

Almost every evening news show features an anchor who sits at a desk and dutifully tells the audience “the news.” I say almost because one evening news show, VICE News Tonight, features no such anchor sitting at an oversized desk. This show premiered last Monday on HBO, introducing the world to a fresh, new way to consume its news daily.

Every episode features a beginning introduction that recaps the news of the day. The episodes then feature a series of short one- to three-minute segments and medium-length four to six-minute news stories brought to the audience by pre-recorded interviews in the real-world. Instead of pharmaceutical commercials, VICE News Tonight offers bold, clean graphics but a necessary subscription to HBO.

VICE News Tonight is geared to today’s youth, who have already heard the generic news through some social media platform but are curious to know a deeper story. This is proven by HBO’s VICE, which is a successful weekly series that features one or two documentaries that last about 30 to 40 minutes. VICE News Tonight seeks to build on that success by essentially creating a mini-VICE episode enveloped with more of a current events focus.

However, this does not stop the show from delivering the same kind of hard-hitting journalism that is meant to be on television or a mobile device. In last Thursday’s episode, the show ran a segment on the effectiveness of the Ukrainian cease-fire, a story that has been void from headlines for what seems like months. A reporter talked to Ukrainian government soldiers on the front lines in the Prom Zone, a region in Eastern Ukraine, who are forced to refrain from attacking even though separatists have been firing mortars at them.

This style of reporting is what is needed in every evening news program. Some shows are styled with in depth-reporting and research, like The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. However, almost all other evening shows on cable news lack this important element. CNN’s shows anchored by Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Don Lemon and other hosts all concentrate too much on the latest political scandal without focusing on the issues the country actually faces. How many times does a person need to see the Trump surrogates defend his egregious statements to then argue with the progressives sitting at another desk?

Instead, VICE News Tonight opts for segments perhaps less timely, but much more substantive. Last Friday’s episode featured a segment on the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, where scientists are simulating the effects of what is predicted to be the climate a 100 years from now. Pamela Templer, a Boston University biogeoscientist who works in the experimental forest, explained the ill effects the rising temperature has on the absorption of carbon dioxide. I doubt many people realize that rising temperatures diminishes the ability for trees to absorb carbon dioxide, therefore increasing the output of carbon dioxide from microorganisms. In layman’s terms, hotter temperatures result in worse air.

I am not trying to say VICE News Tonight is for everybody; if you like listening to the anchor preach you the news, go ahead take a seat and eat your TV dinner. However, this format of substantive reporting is what has been missing from a large chunk of the cable news shows. I don’t see an actual benefit in asking Clinton supporters to defend Clinton’s handling of her emails. All the audience gets out of it time and time again is that Clinton is secretive, which is true to a great extent. I also don’t see any benefit in replaying Trump’s hot mic where he said he has grabbed women’s genitals. I would rather focus on the issues; since it’s quite clear that no Trump scandal will prevent him from getting at least 40 percent of the vote.

While still in its early days, there are bound to be some obstacles in VICE News Tonight’s way. A New York Times review called it “a promise that the show kind of, sort of, doesn’t really keep.” I clearly disagree. VICE News Tonight is a model for the future of serious journalism. Today’s youth would much rather watch an in-depth report than listen to the surrogate cat fights on CNN.

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