Yes, Real-Time Journalism and In-Depth Coverage Can Coexist, Says Vice’s Content Chief

Alex Miller values storytelling in all its forms

Specs

Who Alex Miller

Current gig Global head of content, Vice

Previous gig U.K. editor in chief

Twitter: @AlexGAMiller

Age 32

Why is Vice pushing its global presence?

I think this is an international generation. I think it's fair to say the Internet has changed that game. A kid in Brooklyn is interested in similar stuff as a kid in Barcelona. The local offices are a major part of what makes Vice special and exciting. Frankly, lots of other media organizations don't have that kind of presence anywhere.

What's your favorite story you've reported on?

When I was in Venezuela during the quite sizeable riots there, we were livestreaming from right in the center of Caracas. We had to plug a camera to dial up WiFi, and I went down to the floor beneath us, shoved a mic into my gas mask and live commentated about what was happening for an hour and a half. You realize the power of the Internet that can think on its feet, that can embrace the tradition of journalistic standards, and that can combine them with cutting-edge technology.

Are you a soft rock fan? Your Twitter bio says "hard news, soft rock."

Everybody needs to chill out at some point. (laughs) I just thought it would be fun, but I'll love punk until I die.

What's so important about having a local presence?

I don't believe in having our people sit behind desks in New York. The people who are going to know about what's most fascinating are the locals. Every week I'm in touch with the majority of our editors. We go through all the stories that are the most interesting for their places. It also means that when we do have an American crew that goes to shoot something in one of these countries, you're not suddenly having to work with fixers you've never met. Plus, it means if you ever go on holiday to central Europe, everyone tells you the best parties to go to.

Do you think this is a video generation and writing doesn't resonate?

People love long-form reading. The success of Vice is obviously partly our video content, but also our great relationship with the long-form written word. Our magazine continues to go from strength to strength. Our website focuses on long features. The same thing was said about video when it first appeared on the Internet. People said the only video that will ever work on the Internet is 15-second clips of cats swishing around in baths. We went and we made long-form documentaries about international strife, politics and culture. And guess what? Everybody liked them.

How does that affect what you cover?

We've always been global facing as an organization. We developed the resonance we have now by leading the field in international coverage. What we're looking for in a perfect mix is to have all our local offices providing content for their local readership, but also making sure the most fascinating stories are translated internationally.