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VICE's Correspondents Confidential Tells FARC Jokes, Somalia Shoot Canceled

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 19 -- Two episodes of VICE's new series "Correspondent Confidential" were screened Tuesday night under the high ceiling of the Explorers' Club in Manhattan.

  The first concerned a journalist going undercover as a prostitute in Turkey. The second recounted the one-day kidnapping by the FARC in Colombia of then-LA Times correspondent T. Christian Miller. Watch online here.

  Both stories were told with drawing and cartoons while producer Carrie Ching's interviews with the journalists ran as a single story. Afterward Ching said she wanted it to seem like having a beer with the journalist (she said this of T. Chistian Miller, or as all the other panelists called him, T).

  The panel was moderated by Foreign Policy's Noah Shachtman, who said this form of creative non-fiction was previously advanced by Rolling Stone and Esquire. (He also told a Chris Rock joke about one spouse telling the other to "go get kidnapped so we have something to talk about" that had the perhaps desired unsettling effect among some in the mostly white, relatively young crowd.)

  VICE's Suroosh Avi said none of his shoots have yet resulted in casualties, although one recently planned for Somalia was called off when it began to feel like a set-up for a kidnapping.

  Somalia is what came to mind for Inner City Press, as well as Libya. This week a journalist was killed in Tripoli, but the UN Security Council has said nothing, in contrast to their near-immediate Press Statement about the killing of two French journalists in Mali. Similarly, there have been no Council statements on the killing of Somali journalists. Is there a two-tier system of protection?

  Also on the panel was Joel Simon of CPJ, which the flier called "Citizens to Protect Journalists." And perhaps it should be that -- as Inner City Press previously reported, despite mentioning local journalists CPJ seems in the grip of big media. At the UN, when shown big media attempts to get the Press thrown out for its reporting on Sri Lanka, CPJ said it was too busy - and continued cavorting with the censors.

One analysis is that VICE, growing fast, views CPJ as a form of legitimization. We'd say, VICE doesn't need it. It is doing new work and doing it well, like this series. It should just continue forward, exploring.

  Carrie Ching explained that the VICE piece about the journalist going undercover as a prostitute, show on YouTube, raised the profile of the story.

  She said transparency is the new objectivity, and declined to criticize the journalist for "deceptively" going undercover. We say, yes, this too is journalism, a kind that should be brought to the UN. Watch this site.


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