It was the Monday morning news meeting and all we could talk about was Dennis Rodman, Kim Jong-un, and Vice Media. It was the strangest story of the week, and utterly riveting. But there was more to it than what had already been reported.
The Vice show is funded by HBO, which is owned by Time Warner, which has a boatload of shareholders. Vice Media itself has a whole range of wealthy investors, including former Viacom CEO Tom Freston and The Raine Group, a who’s who of one-percenters. Meaning: a lot of people stand to benefit from the hospitality/propaganda machine of the one of the world’s most notorious dictators.
Reporter Caitlin Dickson started looking at the various connections, using LittleSis.org, an online database that tracks the social connections among the powerful—politicians, business leaders, lobbyists, hedge funders, etc. LittleSis is a project of the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative and a great, easily-searchable, user-friendly source for reporters. You can search people and companies, find out how they’re connected to each other and to whom they donate money.
Check out the screenshot for an example, and the story for the final product. Caitlin was on deadline pressure so was only able to scrape the surface on the Vice story, but there’s no doubt much more to mine.
-Paula Szuchman, deputy managing editor
This is how our team followed the VICE/Dennis Rodman/North Korea money trail for this story.