April 27, 2015

In keeping with its continued push to reach audiences at home and abroad, Vice on Monday launched a multi-part reporting project simultaneously in several different languages.

The Vice Guide to Mental Health,” a weeklong project devoted to exploring issues related to mental illness, went live today in six languages — including English, Spanish, French and Portuguese — and in 15 international territories.

The project represents Vice Media’s largest simultaneously published international editorial effort to date, said Alex Miller, the company’s global head of content. It comes on the heels of a similar initiative, undertaken at the end of last year, to publish a special project on the conditions in Guantanamo Bay in multiple languages within the same week.

Miller says Vice Media is striving for more of its content to be released internationally because readers from different countries are more interconnected than ever. The Internet has dissolved many of the partitions that used to divide one nation’s audience from the next.

“We maintain that we live in an international generation,” Miller said. “And as time has gone on and the Internet has shrunk the planet, it’s become more and more apparent that young people around the world are very very similar to one another. They share concerns, share interests, it doesn’t matter if it’s politics, or in this case if it’s about what happens what’s inside their own minds.”

The project spans several different types of mental illness issues, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, subject-specific phobias, and suicide. It will also include a short documentary that chronicles a mother’s journey to visit her daughter in a mental health unit.

The inspiration for the project was seeded months ago, during conversations Miller had with Vice’s UK editor. The audience was responding well to content focused on mental illness, so the company gradually began collecting pitches and stories related to that issue. Because he has access to Vice’s network of reporters and editors at the “click of a button,” Miller was able to coordinate coverage from full-time editorial staffers and freelancers around the world in advance of the launch. After it was produced, the content was turned over to translators.

Vice decided to go all in on the issue of mental health because it’s a topic of particular relevance to young readers in every country, Miller said. Mental illness disproportionally affects young people, and it’s an issue that transcends national boundaries.

Vice Media isn’t the only growing digital media organization to make simultaneous international translation a priority. After BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith interviewed President Barack Obama in February, the Web giant hustled to get multiple translations of the same story published in unison hours after the English version went live. Like Vice, BuzzFeed is pushing to adopt more of its content for international editions.

The project represents Miller’s largest coordinated editorial effort since the company announced he was global head of content earlier this year. He says his “dream” is to get the sprawling company to a position where it can publish 90 percent of its work “in a multitude of languages” simultaneously.

“And this, I think, is a good step toward that.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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