Picture a newscaster, and no doubt a certain image comes to mind. It likely doesn’t involve black jeans and a T-shirt. However, that’s the basis of the work wardrobe of producer and correspondent Gianna Toboni of HBO’s documentary show VICE. For the San Francisco native, it’s both a personal choice — she did the whole blouse and skirts “business casual” thing earlier on in her career as a correspondent for Al Jazeera—and a matter of utility. “Growing up, I was always glued to the TV when documentaries or long-form network news stories came on,” says Toboni, who is on the other end of the microphone today. “I loved watching Lisa Ling. I loved watching Diane Sawyer on her specials. As I grew older, I realized that I didn’t want to do network news. There was something about it that was overly polished and didn’t feel genuine to me. I wanted something different, where I could be myself while interviewing people. I could wear what I wear out to a bar with friends, and that’s when I discovered VICE.”

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Technically, VICE discovered her. It was after she worked as a producer for ABC News—a role she worked her way toward as an intern studying at New York University—that the media company caught wind of her freelance work. At the time, Toboni was working on an ambitious long-form documentary in Haiti that exposed the sexual abuse of women and children at the hands of United Nations personnel called Peacekeepers Turned Perpetrators. “What we learned is that it wasn’t only happening there, it was happening in 14 of the 16 UN missions around the world,” Toboni recalls. “The story really progressed. VICE ended up airing it, and I started working full-time with them shortly after.”

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At VICE, Toboni continues her authentic, hard-hitting documentary style. Her most memorable segments to date are an interview with senator Cory Booker and another with ISIS fighters. “Whether it’s the Syrian refugee crisis or westerners joining ISIS, these are all stories we read about in the newspaper, and I have such a rare opportunity to go to those places and talk to people at the center of those stories,” she says. “And working at VICE, I’m able to be who I am the whole time.”

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At the moment, Toboni is most interested in the gender inequality plaguing American women and, on a global level, freedom of the press.  “I’m interested in exploring those issues and figuring out why they are so pervasive in our culture in 2017,” she says. “Ideally, what we need is citizens in all of the countries, including ours, to understand the value of a free press and stand up and demand it.”

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She has already figured out one thing, though: there is a real thirst for the kind of heavyweight long-form content she’s producing. “Back in network news, I was always told that millennials don’t have attention spans and the clips can’t be more than three seconds,” she remembers. “I never believed that because I was a millennial, and I was wanting longer-form content about hard news. It turns out that I, that Vice, was right. Younger people want longer content, they just want it presented to them in a different way.”



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