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My love-hate relationship with Vox

Who is Vox Media?

Vox Media has always garnered an enormous level of respect in my eyes. Not only for its high quality publications, but as a media company in general.

They have a tech-first approach to delivering their content to their readers across different mediums, and delivering adverts through user-friendly means. They embrace the importance of rich media through the use of their YouTube channels and also have a deep appreciation of launching thought-out attractive brands for their publications.

Not only this, their approach to acquiring other publications, if needs be rebranding them and then integrating their technology stack and ethic, whilst letting them maintain a certain degree of independence, is truly visionary.

Having said that, I still have my problems with some of their brands: Polygon for their poor coverage of petty gossip stories, Recode for their irritating interviewing capabilities at their events, The Verge for their ridiculous attempt at opinion pieces, to name a few.

One such publication, which pains me to get annoyed at however, is Vox. It's arguably one of Vox Media's flagship brands which describes itself as a news website that "helps you cut through the noise" and "understand what's really driving the events in the headlines". Whilst I adore it to bits for a variety of reasons, I still have an issue with its approach to reporting on interesting and relevant stories.

Why I love Vox

Production Value 👍

I can pretty confidently say that Vox's video content in particular, is some of the best I've seen on YouTube in my 10 years or so of regularly using the platform. Their attention to journalistic detail, their use of high-end visuals and infographics as well as their broad catalogue of series is truly astonishing.

They employ some pretty remarkable journalists that tackle anything from the technology behind shooting some of television's most beloved series to explaining in layman's terms what's going on in a large international conflict.

Two particular favourites of mine are Vox Borders and Vox Pop. Johnny Harris does a formidable job of exploring some of the most important and interesting borders on our planet, whilst Estelle Caswell delves into the psychology, history and science behind some of our favourite music albums, TV shows or films.

Vox Borders in particular highlights the fact that it's possible to generate high-end content with relatively little equipment, a small team and an interesting story to tell. Johnny captivates you with his experiences in these often rural and sometimes outlandish areas through some truly formidable journalism.

Credibility 👍

There's a degree of authenticity felt with every Vox piece you read or watch. They are able to make you trust in them through their extensive research, exhaustive referencing and frankly 'binge-able' infographics that process often complex and illegible pieces of data into an easily-consumable format.

Beyond their exhaustive research, they almost always include interviews with researchers, educators, experts and a plethora of other job titles that have got a direct link to the topic at hand. These interviews are often concise, thought-provoking and at times shocking.

Having such a variety and abundance of third-party speakers ultimately expands the vision of the relevant story to an entirely new level, and brings the piece or video to a level of journalism that is usually exclusive to large multinational brands.

Their inclusion of storystreams and related articles also goes to show how interlinked their editorial process is, further heightening the perception of Vox being a far larger publication and company than it realistically is... something which I am particularly fond of in this era of enormous conglomerate media companies.

Why I 'hate' Vox

Just a pre-emptive note here that I use the word 'hate' sparingly, and that I am merely using it to continue the metaphor of having a love-hate relationship with the brand.

Politics 👎

Look, I get it. Politics invariably is a part of the news, and with Vox being a news website then it will undoubtedly cover this portion of the stories on any given day. However, the extent to which it seems to relish in covering politics is tiring after a while.

But in all honesty it's not actual politics that bothers me, it's Vox including its own political views that bothers me. Why should it? News publications have since the dawn of time leant more one way than the other.

Vox however strikes me more as a modern, unbiased and informative publication whose goal is quite literally to cut through the crap and get to the source of a story. So it shocks me when their reporters begin instilling their own views on certain subjects so strongly.

Furthermore, they enjoy reporting on subjects like gender politics, racial politics and social politics but not in an informative way. Instead, they seem to suck up to the relevant groups of people associated with the topic at hand and try to push a "we're the best" message instead. In a way, you could liken them to social justice warriors.

This isn't to say that those topics should be completely ignored, but I think that the reporters in question should at least try to present a level playing field and not come up with odd and extreme arguments that ultimately create something out of nothing.

Negativity 👎

Yet again, I get it. Most news nowadays is pretty depressing to watch and just because something's negative doesn't mean it shouldn't be featured. However, surely it's time for us to be given high-quality journalism that focuses in on positive stories and aspects of humanity that are encouraging rather than discouraging.

I would have again expected Vox, being the forward-thinking company that it is, to embrace this idea and see what young people are having to face every day and try and change that. Series like the aforementioned Vox Borders and Vox Pop are perfect examples of the kind of stories and content that we're craving to consume in the face of such depression-driven headlines that we get from traditional media outlets.

Looking at the most recent batch of Vox content for example, we get headlines like: "What a war with North Korea would look like", "The 2020 census is in serious trouble", "Why Ukraine is trapped in endless conflict", "The problem with online charter schools" and more. The level of negativity pushed through in these titles almost makes you wonder if Vox couldn't be considered scaremongers in their effort to deliver the honest truth to their readers.

I feel like Vox is having an identity crisis, not being able to decide whether it's an investigative media outlet focused on uncovering the truth and getting to the source of problems with challenging and concerning stories, or being an opinion-focused documentary producer that thrives in explaining and making sense of often complex situations, or by just being an innovative news company that's trying to be the jack of all trades.

The Ultimate Truth

I find myself hovering over the 'Unsubscribe' button of Vox' YouTube channel on an almost weekly basis. I absolutely adore their content, I love their reporters and can't get enough of those fine-ass motion graphics they like to pack their videos with to make the experience more enjoyable.

But at the same time, I find myself increasingly frustrated at the lack of content that I love to see from them, and the over-abundance of Americanised negative story coverage that contains a smidgen of political agenda being pushed to the readers.

If anyone at Vox ever finds themselves reading this, then I implore you to sort out this identity crisis and decide on what kind of a publication you want to become. You have an outstanding opportunity here to break the chain of traditional media and become a truly visionary platform for young people to source, consume and discuss content that's relevant to their futures.

Don't waste that opportunity.

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© Oliver McQuitty 2017 - 2020