Internal Emails Reveal How Vice News Allowed Itself to Be Corrupted by Big Brands

Vice News is known for its edgy and often innovative take on news, and a favorite source of news for millennials everywhere. Its video journalists, for example, were some of the few to be able to not only file a report from the fledgling ISIS “Islamic State,” but to produce enough segments to compose an entire  mini-documentary.


But a series of  tweets from a former Vice associate editor – progressive journalist Charles Davis – shows that there may be some very severe conflicts of interest at the outlet that are undermining its ability to be gritty and independent.

Davis, who worked at Vice for two months before being terminated, explained in a flurry of tweets  how he recruited a freelance piece from journalist Michael Tracey about the NFL which ended up calling for a boycott of pro football due to various ethical breaches. Davis posted screencaps of emails from Vice's staffers instructing Davis that he should inform Hosi Simon, Vice's global manager, any time he writes about brands:

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The NFL piece by Tracey was actually popular enough to merit an invite from BBC Newshour. Davis explains that Vice staff wanted to prevent Tracey from going on the radio show to discuss the piece, as higher ups were displeased with the NFL piece getting greater traction. Davis shared one email to Tracey urging him to reject the BBC interview and anger after he didn't:

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Vice insists that Davis's firing had nothing to do with the NFL incident or any other incidents where he may have upset corporate sponsors or potential sponsors. They say that the real reason for his termination was falling asleep in a meeting, something that Davis labels as “slander.”

In its response to a Gawker article about Davis's firing, Vice tellingly does not take issue with the contents of any of the emails that he posted – which indicates that they are likely real and unaltered.

Vice News is known for its innovative take on journalism and tackling tough issues. But the termination of Davis and the facts he reveals about the outlet's sensitivity to corporate marketers call into question its ability to be as independent and critical as it portrays itself to be.

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