News Track, Oct. 15: Vice News features

Story: Meet the Pork-Knockers of Guyana’s Gold Rush

Source: Vice News

 

Vice developed acclaim and popularity for the long-form feature. When it was just a magazine, Vice specialized in gritty Gonzo journalism, flying to corners of the world to investigate sex crime and bizarre drugs. Vice has changed drastically since the magazine days, but it still knows how to perfect a long-form feature – even for an online medium.

“Meet the Pork-Knockers” appears first when a user scrolls over the Regions tab. It’s the first story listed under the Americas, and even though the photo isn’t very action-heavy, it draws the reader in with shimmering water, far in the horizon of the photo, illustrating how deep the depth-of-field truly is. When you click through, three characters are meeting at the water. It’s not a showy photograph, but it’s curious – who are these people, and what is so important that this man feels the need to meet the newcomers at the water?

The style of the writing reeks of traditional Vice – first person narration, for one, but also starting right at the climax of the piece. Vice has always had a flair for drama, but nothing says that like this lead:

When I met freelance gold miner Darwin McDonald in Guyana’s interior, his third bout of malaria in just two years was ravaging his body. But McDonald, slumped over at a bus stop and looking deathly ill, had bigger problems than his aching joints and terrible chills.

In order to avoid returning for another three-month stint in the rainforest gold mines, he needed desperately to track down the prostitute who he claimed stole all his money the night before.

Our protagonist already has malaria, a conflict with a conniving sex worker and a desperate objective – to avoid going back to the mines.

The gold mines.

The story moves on to a surprisingly hard nutgraph, with statistics on the necessity of illegal gold mining on Guyana’s economy. We learn more about the gold mining business, about the sex workers, about the tough life in Guyana, but unfortunately the photos don’t seem to reflect the tone of the piece. In many ways, it’s a collection of photos of shacks and fields, with very few human faces. For a story so inherently about human lives, you would think more human photos would be more powerful.

In addition, the piece feels like it’s missing more interactive multimedia. Why not record Darwin talking about the sex worker? Why not include a video of a day in the life of an illegal gold miner? While the writing was superb, the multimedia fell short.

 

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