‘Vice’ Producers on Future of News: ‘Nobody Knows What the World Is Gonna Look Like’

The new season of “Vice” on Showtime was totally overhauled when coronavirus hit, but the effects will be even more long-lasting, showrunners say

Last Updated: July 15, 2020 @ 4:35 PM

“Vice” senior executive producer Subrata De and executive producer and showrunner Beverly Chase have had a rough ride with their weekly Showtime series since the start of the pandemic. Recently, they were forced to rethink coverage, shift to more of a coronavirus focus and plan for a future where De said “Nobody knows what the world is gonna look like.”

As newscasts pivoted to remote work and pandemic coverage over the past few months, the immediate effects of COVID-19 — on “Vice” and others — were obvious, but will likely result in long-term changes yet to be determined.

De explained the changes she saw at the onset of the show’s season in March, just as the pandemic was really starting to shut down American businesses and impact everyday life. Of the 26 segments they had planned, half of them had already been filmed and deployed “Vice” crews around the world. The original segments were “intense” she said, but got quickly scrapped. Getting remaining crews home from deployments — not to mention back out on coronavirus-related assignments — became the most pressing issue. One crew ended up sleeping overnight on couches on a tarmac, subject to a foreign country’s travel rules and whims.

“We immerse ourselves in our stories, so in order to kind of truly understand a story, that’s what we do. That was our instinct and we wanted to follow it, but not before they could really assess the risk to ourselves and to others.” De and Chase embarked on a company-wide but incredibly urgent education about the virus, seeking insight from epidemiologists, health experts and physicians.  “We shut down our offices,” De said. “I think we were really one of the first media companies to do that, to really sort of shut down and assess — and then, honestly, we just started to report the hell out of the story, and case by case, story by story, we kind of stood back up.”

As “Vice” refocused on coronavirus, gaining access to hospitals and hotspots around the world, the team behind the Showtime program also started to look to the future, but while protocols are being established, stories are still in flux.

“There’s so much unknown,” Chase said. “As we think about the stories that we want to tell in future seasons, it’s really, really hard to — what we’ve learned from this is that it’s really hard to predict what’s going to happen. I think we talked about starting to develop stories and we tried to think forward — you know, in 12 months — and nobody knows what the world is gonna look like, so we don’t know what the long-lasting impacts of COVID are going to be.”

She continued, “We have an election coming up. We don’t know what the impact of that is going to be due to COVID. We’re just heading into this world that is unreported and there’s going to be just a multitude of stories that we don’t even expect.”

“Journalism has never been more important,” De said. “Truth-based information has never been more important.”

Watch an exclusive clip of the “Vice” coronavirus coverage above.

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