rip vice

rip vice
"Clock," Ralph Morton (1935/42)

You know, it looks like the era of blogging for money is definitively over. VICE died ignominiously, killed by the same ravening capital that's destroying America's fourth estate — and, of course, its ability to understand itself.

I idolized the site much longer than I worked there, like many people who were in their 20s during their boom years. I don't have much to say about it, other than it was occasionally fun to publish dumb blogs and very fun to make documentary television. The people who worked there were always better than the people running the place, which was always the infuriating thing about VICE as a place and as a concept. Management would tell us we were going to take over the world, and they'd say this with a straight face — it was the company line. Ridiculous on its face and unachievable in practice. But it nevertheless felt like the place had a mission. We were imbued with purpose, you see. And the thing is, the people who worked there were always making something beautiful. Ambitious stuff, daring stuff, beautiful stuff. They paid like shit and yet people spun gold.

I don't see how any of this continues. What will the TikTokers do when every website is dead? Where will the YouTubers get the stories they "cover"? I feel insane every time I think about the number of media jobs lost, the number of journalists that were manufactured during the digital boom who now have to figure out how to scrape together a living after it kicked them out in favor of higher returns to shareholders. When I remember what it used to be like — back in the 2010s, when I was hearing fables from older journalists about things like editor expense accounts and real budgets for stories — it feels now like I'm dreaming, like it all happened in a different world. How else can you describe the feeling of going to open bar parties sponsored by the hottest new media startup? How else can you describe what it was like to feel like a career in journalism was possible? Was it all just a ZIRP thing? What happened?

Boom times always end because booms always end. And yet media investors and their ilk continue to believe the fantasy that the line must always go up. That infinite growth is good and right and possible. How else do you explain how much Shane Smith paid himself? What other faith was his compensation based on?

I guess it doesn't matter, really. A lot of very fine writers came out of VICE, and that should be enough. They'll keep writing, of course, because writers are compelled by forces beyond their understanding to put words into the right order on a blank page. All most of us want is a stable place to put those words into the world. I don't think it's that much to ask. In return you get to know what's happening in the world around you. You get to make informed decisions about your life. You don't go under without informed consent; why live your life that way?

I wish I had an answer. Subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, and tell your friends to do the same. But obviously that's not enough. To protect the media — to keep it healthy and stable — we'd need to find a new model, or figure out how to convince politicians that it is in their best interest that public funding for media outlets is important. Neither of those seem very likely to me, but hope springs eternal.

Anyway. There's not much else to say, is there? We know what's happening, we know who's causing it, and we know the situation is untenable. So what do we do? What happens next?


things i'm consuming this week

Rules of Play, Katie Salen & Eric Zimmerman