Behind the Vice’s Doors
By Sheena Macmillan
Walking into the Vice office located in Griffintown, surrounded by construction, the sight is one completely opposite to that of a typical newsroom. With an open concept and work rooms divided by glass walls, everyone seems at ease. Vice was created in Montreal in 1994, and has since moved its headquarters to Brooklyn, New York. The reporters and editors work at large tables, typing on their laptops. Their snacks, pens, and charging cables are strewn around them. The Editor and Chief of Vice Quebec, Philippe Gohier, works alongside his editors. “We’re a lot less serious than the Gazette,” he joked, showing me the rest of the office.
Justine de l’Église has been working as a Staff Writer for Vice since September 2016. Before graduating from UQAM in 2016, de l’Église was working at Radio Canada writing for TV and radio. “You coordinate with the journalists and write their questions for the news anchor,” she said about her past job, “I really loved it, but it was really intense.” She continued, “it’s great experience, but it’s not how you become a reporter.”
De l’Église wanted to be on the field, actively digging up stories and reporting them herself. She loved the newsroom beat and how stimulating the environment was, but she knew it wasn’t what she wanted to do in the long run. During her first summer at Radio Canada, de l’Église was given a lot of hours to cover for the other journalists who were on vacation. When those journalists would come back in the fall, however, de l’Église’s hours would be cut. “I decided to look for another job, even though I loved it there,” she said, “Vice was hiring, and that was pretty much it.” The position open at Vice was one she was more interested in, she would be more on the field and in the action.
Now, de l’Église gets to report and write about the stories she wants to cover. She explained, “We have a meeting in the morning, and we talk about what we saw on the news, what we’d like to dig up for the day, or any long term ideas.” After that, the journalists break off to their respective work areas and write for the rest of the day. Everything written in their office is published online.
Some weeks, reporters will write a story a day, “if they’re short stories,” de l’Église explained. “I publish here and there, but I focus more on the long term. We’re doing a series on a certain topic for December,” so most of her efforts have been focused on that. This requires a lot of research, so she has been publishing less online as of late.
Her favourite part about working at Vice is the “portraits” or “human portraits” she gets to write. “I interviewed this ex-Jehovah’s Witness, who lives in a truck. He’s an underground, illegal, barber now.” She got to spend the day with him, where he told her “about his youth, and how he would always break the Jehovah’s rules with his friends, taking drugs, organizing raves that other Jehovah’s Witnesses would attend. That was a crazy story.” Being able to capture the “human vibe” is what makes Vice special for de l’Église. For her, putting the human experience on paper for other readers to enjoy is what makes journalism the unique craft that it is.