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vice magazine THE NOVELTY OF ACCESS: Correspondent Ryan Duffy gets up close and personal in the Philippines. Vice Productions

Others said HBO
was expecting more of the old Vice.

"[HBO] actually wanted a hate-Brooklyn, pissing on themselves [show]," said one source close to the situation, who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity. "And then they got all this serious shit."

"HBO was shocked by that," our tipster continued. "But Vice likes to do really serious stuff now." Still, the source floated the possibility that the network was actually impressed: "Maybe HBO was shocked in a good way."

As Moretti tells it, there was no resistance from the premium channel.

"It was just kind of a meeting of the minds. It was a wonderful process," he said. "A lot of people can experience a traumatic pitch process, but with HBO, we just felt like these people knew us, understood us. They have a passion for news and documentary.'

To be fair to Vice, it's not your older brother's Canadian grime-core magazine anymore. (Hell, it's barely a magazine anymore.) Vice Media has become a huge digital content creator, especially with Vice.com, which hosts 60-plus video channels. According to a spokesperson, 80 to 90 percent of what Vice Media produces today is online video.

In 2011 alone, Vice Media made $110 million on these video series, from pre-roll ads to YouTube partnerships. The programs range from the silly to the somber.

The stern of Vice's skateboards-and-boobs ship began to turn in 2007. That was when Moretti and Alvi premiered their documentary, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, about an Iraqi heavy-metal band, Acrassicauda. The video struck all the right notes: it had the hardcore, DIY underground music scene that already fit with Vice's original conception as a punk magazine, but it was also covering a reality about the war-torn country from a unique perspective. When the accolades began pouring in for the documentary, Vice transitioned—overnight, it seemed—from a hipster outfit to an international "news" presence. The HBO show appears to be the natural culmination of this Vice 2.0.

"The secret of Vice was to stick to the core template I created. Stupid in a smart way, smart in a stupid way. Never be serious," said Gavin McInnes, a founder and former employee of Vice Media, who left the company in 2008 following a very public dispute after Viacom was brought in. (Viacom maintained a partnership with Vice's online video content from 2007 to 2009, when it was VBS.TV.) "I think they are trying to do serious journalism now."

In a 2007 interview with Wired, on the occasion of the launch of VBS.TV, Alvi said, "Traditional journalism always aspires to objectivity, and since Day One with the magazine, we never believed in that."

In fact, when VBS.TV first launched that year, its motto was: "Rescuing you from television's deathlike grip."

Oh, the irony.

"I think it's a maturation of our natural form of documentary storytelling," Moretti said of the show. "A maturation of the Vice brand, in a way. It's consistently more serious, and the stories are told with a lot of diligence."

When asked if this evolution represented Vice's bildungsroman, Moretti answered with a laugh: "Totally. Actually, it's my personal bildungsroman."

Like a lot of things about Vice, though, we couldn't tell if the executive was being totally serious. Which might be a problem when it comes time to teach Americans about the Pakistani and Indian factions currently tearing apart the region of Kashmir.

In the meantime, we'll take Vice's new conscientious-citizens-of-the-world shtick with a grain of salt. Or, if they can spare it, a bump of blow.

From The New York Observer

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