I'm Shane Smith, co-founder of VICE, a magazine I started in Montreal in 1994 that has since grown into a global media company in 30 countries. I also went to North Korea twice, and starred in the VICE Guide to North Korea, which featured footage of my trip. You can watch it here. Most recently I went to Liberia, a war-torn country in Africa plagued with heroin dens, teenage prostitution, and even cross-dressing cannibals; and then to the North Korean labor camps hidden in the forests of Siberia.

Ask me anything about myself, my company, my trips - anything.

NOTE: I'll be able to respond mostly between 2-4p EST, but will try and reply whenever I can before then.

EDIT (5p): Thanks for all the comments and posts. My fingers are all fucked up from trying to keep up with you all and I have to go work on my latest Afghanistan suicide bomber piece. Thanks again. It was really great for me to talk to you if only for a few hours. I like you.

Proof: My original tweet. This post is also linked from www.facebook.com/vice and www.twitter.com/vice

Comments: 1994 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

naptha521 karma

Shane, thank you for your contribution to the world of news media. The VBS documentaries are truly an inspiration and exemplify what mainstream journalism could be. It's shit like this that caused me to attend film school in the first place. Just noticed that you guys might be looking for PA's, while I wait for the results of that process, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the work of Vice.

That being said, Do you feel that the work of Vice has had any effect on how investigative journalism is conducted within the mainstream media? Do you think that the major networks will take more of their cues from smaller, more independent media companies; or that they feel as though they set the standards which all others should follow?

ShaneVICE459 karma

They should,the days of old news are numbered. Their audience is aging and their budgets are continually slashed. News Programs have all become partisan sounding boards and are mired in politics and rhetoric. The future of news is online.

pill_popper49 karma

About your second paragraph, I seriously doubt it; Shane was in the documentary "Page One" [fixed: thank you] about the New York Times, the scene in question was a meeting Vice was having pitching NYT to do some joint venture, and the asshole at the NYT got real defensive over something harmless Shane said and jumped down his fucking throat.

Basically, old media journalism is too full of itself and in denial and tripping off its own power and access to power to even acknowledge Vice and it's immersive journalism as valid.

[deleted]80 karma

In fairness to David Carr, the 'something harmless' Shane said was "We were covering Liberia while the NYT was covering surfing"

and the response was

"We have been covering Liberia for years"

I definitely came out of that movie with more respect for David Carr then for Shane.

ShaneVICE88 karma

thanks so did I.

kooluoyedam72 karma

The documentary is actually called Page One and the thing that happened with David Carr was an interview that was eventually turned into this pretty enlightening article in the NYT. Also, funnily enough, the interview was actually about why Vice was partnering with CNN...

ShaneVICE55 karma


blue-dream19 karma

That article just screamed of bitterness and contempt.

SigmaStigma31 karma

I have a very good vocabulary, their use of the term "insouciance," should show the character of the piece. I had no idea what it meant, and I assume the writer went through his pretentious thesaurus to find a word to denigrate VICE and it's type of journalism. Every other word is hip, or hipster. Applied correctly, I think that term is pejorative, but applied simply because you're bitter, just makes you sound even more bitter and full of contempt.

PreservedKillick12 karma

You probably have a better vocabulary than I do, but I knew what insouciance meant without looking it up. So, you know, it varies.

I actually think David Carr is an excellent reporter, and if you read his piece to the end, it comes off as pretty fair. Vice is really trendy and is pretty goddamn hipster. He could've toned it down, but it certainly wasn't a one-sided hit piece. He even calls their movies 'wonderful'.

Carr is an interesting character - I like his story and when I read his work, it appears as sound journalism. NYT management agrees. I think his outburst in Page One was misplaced and stupid (I suspect were you to ask Carr now, he'd agree), but that's not a good reason to write-off all of his work. Heck, I bet even Shane would agree that Carr is a strong reporter.

ShaneVICE19 karma

Carr is awesome. The Page One stuff is just making a movie. I have no beef with Carr.

ShaneVICE30 karma

thanks for that!

aertime373 karma

What is the scariest situation you've been in when reporting for VICE? By the way, I really enjoyed the labor camp piece.

ShaneVICE815 karma

recently I was in Afghanistan and shot with senior Taliban war lords. They had both been imprisoned for kidnapping and killing westerners. They did not like me or my questions at all. It got pretty hairy and if I didn't have my Tajik body guards with me I don't think I would be typing this now. This piece on child suicide bombers is going to fuck people up.

stigochris235 karma

wow, when will we be able to read that?

edit: or watch that I suppose

ShaneVICE266 karma

soon as I can finish this AMA and get back to the edit.

gsxr163 karma

The scariest for me was the African(Congo I think), whore house with the hopped up hooker that went insane. Love to know how far that ranks up there for Shane.

EDIT: it's not Congo it's Liberia.

ShaneVICE305 karma

freaky for sure. it was after that actually where our driver (who was also supposed to be our security) was so freaked out that he peeled into a crowd of people. If he had hurt anyone (it was a miracle that he didn't) we would have been ripped to pieces. Doesn't come across in the segment, but that shit was heavy.

patton66140 karma

that was the Liberia one. that was one of the most horrifying documentaries ive ever seen, period. Shane if you read this comment, please let us know of anything that was cut out of that episode for being too extreme to show

ShaneVICE234 karma

we had some footage that we bought when we were there of cannibalism during the war, that we thought was a bit rich to show.

HoldenH280 karma

Where can I find all the documentaries that only YOU have hosted? The VICE website is terrible

ShaneVICE226 karma

hahhha, nooooooo, there is a lot of good shit on vice. we are improving navigation of it now there is just TOO MUCH STUFF. I am hosting the HBO show so there will be a lot of my stories in that show (and at the same time on vice)

Generic_Grunt251 karma

1- The North Korean apologists or the Authorities, did they ever bother you after the doc?

2- Whilst in North Korea did you meet anyone who secretly detested the regime?

3- North Korea Part II is it possible? Oh and thank you for all those fantastic documentaries. haven't seen anyone cover North Korea like you guys.

ShaneVICE334 karma

  • yes, some North Koreans from the "embassy" - of which there isn't one- came to the office, to "discuss" it with me. I stayed at the bar, rather than come in.

  • NO and if I had I don't think they would tell me. I had one strange experience where one of my guards who called me "big brother" told me "Big Brother, quite frankly, we have no food. We have no electricity." which was shocking because usually they admit nothing and only say how perfect their country is.

  • There is a NK part II and and SIberian labor camps.

bendyplywood242 karma

Do you believe that General Butt Naked is genuine with his new found religion? Did you find him intimidating, since he ate the hearts of kids?

How did you manage to not get in a proper fight with the guys on the Trans-Siberian train?

EDIT: Trans-Siberian train, not Serbian, I got a bit confused.

ShaneVICE361 karma

I didn't get into a fight a) thanks to xanax b) the fact that they throw you off the train if you do (literally in the middle of no where) and c) the fact that they all had prison tattoos. If you are at all familiar with Russian prisons, you will not fuck with ANYONE who has been to one. Even a blind drunk midget.

ShaneVICE241 karma

I think that Joshuha Blahyi as he is now called indeed did find religion. Liberia is kind of a heaven/hell place. Churches are everywhere. Evangelical signs and bumperstickers are ubiquitous, but yet there is so much fucked up shit going on its insane. Actually while we were there there was a massive born again rally with half of MOnrovia in attendance. The religion aspect of the country is really a reaction to how bad shit has been there for so long.

ShaneVICE221 karma

Thanks for all the comments and posts. My fingers are all fucked up from trying to keep up with you all and I have to go work on my latest Afghanistan suicide bomber piece. Thanks again. It was really great for me to talk to you if only for a few hours. I like you.

enigma2g188 karma

Hi Shane, In the guide to Liberia you said you almost felt a kind of friendship with Joshua Blayhi when you let yourself forget all the things he'd done. Looking back on it now how do you feel about him as a person? Also any chance of you doing the Rogan podcast again?

ShaneVICE240 karma

Love Rogan, saw him at the fights on the week end, going to do another podcast when we are both in the same city! RE: Joshuha, I am conflicted as to my feelings for him. When you see carnage first hand its hard to forgive anyone who is guilty of perpetrating it, and that goes for the US government as well.

ShaneVICE146 karma

OK here we go

Nordiis127 karma

Hi Shane, Mad props to you and the rest of the VICE team for what you have accomplished over the past years. My personal favourite ‘VICE-thing’ ought to be The VICE Guides to Travel; amazingly interesting, fresh and thought-provocative (The Guide to Liberia was absolutely scary/fascinating). I have a few questions, not really related to each other.

  • Why did you decide to leave Montreal for New York in 1999?
  • Was there a moment you really feared for your own life during your travels?
  • Is General Butt Naked as insane as he seems like in the documentary?
  • Last question, a bit political. I know you’re not a fan of the Scandinavian social-democracy model. Do you think Harper is bringing Canada back on track?

Thank you for your time and thanks again for VICE.

ShaneVICE245 karma

left montreal for NYC to see if we could make it on the world stage. We wanted to be the first mag in the history of Canada to come to the big smoke and see if we could kill it. We did.

Liberia, Afghanistan, NK all dangerous but MOST dangerous. Juarez, Mexico. THE most dangerous place in the world for journalists and I just finished shooting there on the narcos. Fucking terrifying.

erakor993 karma

what is the wildest drug experience you've ever had?

ShaneVICE177 karma

Ibogaine. WOW!

staymooney92 karma

Hey - First of all.. Your trips to N. Korea & Liberia were some of the best television I have ever watched. Your Liberia trip has influenced my buddies thesis in philosophy for his PHD..... Anyways... I have 3 very important questions.

  1. Did you see Korean BBQ in North Korea?

  2. How was the beer in North Korea?

  3. Can yall please get your shit back up on Netflix?


ShaneVICE100 karma

There wasn't really a lot of food in NK so we ate 99cent South Korean ramen that we could get in the hotel. The rest of the food was inedible. No BBQ but some Pyoungyang cold noodles (which are cold noodles in a chilli broth) were considered a real delicacy.

beer was very fizzy and a tad acidy


i_fuck_kids89 karma

Whatever happened to the nice North Korean tea lady?

ShaneVICE185 karma

still there waiting for me to come back I suppose.

snoogins181 karma

  • Are the KGB still after?

  • Why wasn't the "Russian Mobsters" video ever released?

  • When is your HBO show coming out and what will it show?

  • How bad are you going to feel when you start WWIII?

  • Any bands you have an eye on for Vice music label? (Black lips are the shit!)

  • What ended up happening to the organisation "Voice" after you dropped the "o"

Much love.

ShaneVICE66 karma

The FSB chased us all the way to the Chinese border at Blagoveshensk (sp?) We were lucky to get out. What video of "Billy the Fish?" cuz he saved our ass! HBO comes out when they tell me it comes out but we are shooting a lot of episodes so there will be a lot of great shit, actually best stuff we have ever done

ShaneVICE58 karma

I hope we don't start any wars as when you see how they look first hand you never want to see them again.

Music we have a lot of shit coming out including a film with Snoop becoming a rasta in Jamaica, which is going to be huge.

I don't understand the question. We just changed the name, It was the same organization

coolercity79 karma

Hi Shane,

What would you say is the percent of people in North Korea that genuinely believe the whole "Great Leader" thing and what percent are just playing along for survival?

Thanks for doing this!

ShaneVICE202 karma

I think that up until recently the majority believe in the Great Leader. Its like saying how many people genuinely in Kansas believe in the whole "Jesus" thing? they have been brought up with everyone telling them that Kim Il Sung is god. Every book they read, every TV show, Movie, song... anything... Its only with the influx of Chinese trade that some people have come out of the pond... that and the death of Kim Jung Il will start to erode the absolute power that the family holds over the country

Radtown76 karma

Can you elaborate on the story when two North Korean men from the "embassy" showed up at your office? What did they say when you told them there was no NK embassy? What kind of car did they drive? How did they get into the US?

ShaneVICE90 karma

I was not in the office. I received a call from my PA who told me not to come in. The office was quite freaked out.


  1. Did you bang any shemales in that guide to Thailand episode?
  2. You're my favorite canadian.
  3. Did you know that eating lots of celery makes you cum like a rocket?

Thanks for this IAmA, you're awesome.

ShaneVICE95 karma

I did not. there was a whole crew in the room. and when you dip into the "best of both worlds" you don't want a bunch of teamsters there yelling "how's the light??" or "move your ass slower Shane I;m getting too much glow off it."

Thanks that makes me happy.

I did now and am going to start eating it now. Its also known as "the colonic broom." which is always nice.

dkon77763 karma

Hey Shane, just wondering how you feel about the whole KONY situation. Your video of you going to Liberia was pretty terrifying to say the least. Just wondering if you saw or heard anything about KONY when you were over there...

ShaneVICE90 karma

I heard a lot about LRA when I was in Sudan, I think the kidnapping and brainwashing of children to be soldiers is the worst shit we are capable of as human beings.

bendanger59 karma

Most fucked up party stories?

ShaneVICE82 karma

I have a million of them but that is for another day.

Jamaica, daggering.

ellafm59 karma

Has VICE become sort of less fun now that it's a global thing rather than mates cheating welfare in Montreal? Are you and Suroosh Alvi still friends with Gavin McInnes although he's no longer a part of the VICE team?

EDIT: Just to go a bit further, when you started the magazine, was this how you imagined it to be? Obviously not this much the scale of it, but that it would cover such a variety of topics from fashion to politics?

ShaneVICE104 karma

I personally am having the most fun I've ever had at vice. When we were young in Montreal it was fun too but no one ever read us and we were always broke and doing ALL of the jobs ALL the time. Now we are up for best mag in the world awards and killing the webbies etc... and its in 34 countries. Its fun as shit in all honesty. Suroosh is still my best pal. Gavin went his own way.

dudethatsmeta48 karma

Thanks for doing an IAMA, and I love VICE's mission of exposing younger generations to new content that helps them to critically analyze the media around them. I've followed your company since it was just busting out of Montreal.

Do you see VICE as the next MTV?

Has your outlook on media and popular culture changed since partnering with media giants like WPP?

In a consumer-goods infused "hipster" culture, what does selling out mean today?

Finally, what are your plans for Motherboard/Creator's Project once the copromotion deals run up? Will they change brand partners, or will they get folded into other ventures?

ShaneVICE58 karma

I don't see Vice as the next MTV, they are a cable TV phenom and had a very narrow mandate. We are digital and have a wider scope and focus. Now if you asked is VICE the next Viacom....

I don't think my ideas on media have changed since working with WPP, they want to get on the train that we are driving and they are smart to do so.

I don't know what selling out means period. We have always partnered with Brands to deliver content, since day one. That's how all media runs. If you do it well and are popular globally then questions of selling out arise. possibly because "cool" by definition means "small." We have been accused of "selling out" since we left montreal. But all we ever wanted to do is to make shit that didn't suck, full stop.

The Creators Project will never die. Its too good.

WaywardWayfarer24 karma

In a consumer-goods infused "hipster" culture, what does selling out mean today?

I'm really interested in this at a theoretical level.

ShaneVICE123 karma

I don;t know. Is Facebook selling out? Did Instagram sell out? We idealize success and cash, yet hate it when our favorite things get popular outside our own little groups. Again, we never made anything for an audience, we never had a business plan, we just wanted to make things and if "selling out" actually allows us to make TV and Films, and have books and records and events etc.... and not just an inky 'zine in Canada then I'll take it any day of the week.


Is North Korea best Korea ?

ShaneVICE88 karma

NO! South Korea is awesome. North Korea is a disneyland ride back to Communist Cult of personality lunacy.

new_round35 karma

how much does North Korea hate you now?

ShaneVICE97 karma

a lot

bugpoker33 karma

After everything you have seen, heard, and experienced throughout the world, what one word or phrase would you use to sum it up?

ShaneVICE156 karma

"where are all the adults?"

enaknezitic32 karma

Shane, love all of the VICE stories (well at least the movies, I hate reading) couple of questions:

  • You seem to put yourself in some crazy situations, Whats one location you want to go but haven't had a chance yet?
  • How much preperation does a trip to dangerous parts of the world (N. Korea, Liberia etc.) typically include?
  • Was there ever a time where you had a WTF moment and realized you might not make it back?

ShaneVICE31 karma


Somalia I have always wanted to go to and is our next big story, which is going to be heavy.

depends some of our best stories had very little prep. NK had almost none (cept the year of waiting to get in)

MonkeysDontEvolve26 karma

  • On your travels did you have any moments where you felt like "Shit, I might not make it out of here."?

  • What do you think the single greatest threat to mankind is?

  • What was it like dealing with MTV?

  • How can I get a job at Vice?

ShaneVICE40 karma

Yes, a few times. Sudan, Liberia, Iran and Mexico

the greatest threat is nuclear proliferation. We should stop it ALL and NOW or we are fucked.

MTV are a company like all other companies just with more zeros attached at the end of it. They helped us start VBS and online video production and then let us go when we wanted to. My friendship with Tom Freston remains the most valuable remnant of that era


crissray25 karma

First off, let me say- Thank you for doing what you do.

Have you heard about Yanggakdo Hotel's hidden 5th floor? If you ever go back, would you be willing to explore? Link to original artical.

Humans tend to make light of even the grimmest of situations. Are there any jokes dealing with regional issues that you've heard during your travels that you could share with us, as fucked up as they may be?

Was there any reason you and Joshua Blahyi were both wearing white suits while you were in the cemetery and the church?

ShaneVICE26 karma

I don't think I can go back in the near future.

a lot of jokes but mostly its situational so you need lots of context.

we were both going to church. Those are west african church going duds.

Shmoogy24 karma

Hi Shane, I just wanted to let you know that I misread the title of your AMA as time traveler rather than two time traveler-- which is probably the only thing that would have been more impressive.

ShaneVICE105 karma

I am a time traveler. I drink vodka and then I wake up and things have happened.

WillyNoman23 karma

how much xanax do you take before boarding a third-world puddle-jumper?

ShaneVICE41 karma

some. with some wines. the finest wines known to humanity... or vodka.

[deleted]22 karma

Was there anything in any of your travels that you shot footage of but couldn't show in your documentaries? I know you only used part of the Charles Taylor assassination, but that also wasn't your footage.

Also, thank you so much for bringing attention to Liberia's history. I had heard of Uganda's story before KONY 2012, but had no idea about Liberia's difficult history before Vice went there.

ShaneVICE39 karma

usually its only archival that is too rich to air. Although we do have some footage from Afghanistan and Mexico that we are struggling with because its so graphic.

BrakeChrutz19 karma

What was the most shocking/unusual thing that you can tell us from seeing North Korea?

ShaneVICE64 karma

Arirang games were the most shocking and unusual thing that I have ever seen in my life.




theswooper17 karma


ShaneVICE27 karma

I am married with kids now and its like asking me about my girlfriends from 10 years ago. The response would be... "Well that was a long time ago and it was fun, but now it's a different thing, everything has changed and all that other stuff is just a memory." Same thing with Gavin.

bendanger11 karma

What is your favorite issue of the mag to date? Favorite interview? Strangest interview?

ShaneVICE19 karma

I think the last year of the mag has been my favorite because we finally go our shit together on the mix and have really seen it ride a rocket ship because of that. It feels like a whole new mag (which it is) run by kids that fucking live, eat and breathe it (which they do) and have broken ties with our history (Bob Dylan had to go electric) and now its better than its ever been, that makes me happy.

pcc9876 karma

After having hired someone like Kari Ferrell, has Vice taken any precautionary measures toward the hiring of new employees (i.e. background checks, personality tests, etc)?

ShaneVICE8 karma

hhahhha no. I dunno. It is cool that we were part of that very weird piece of history in a way. Its not like she stole our payroll or anything.