Thursday, July 12, 2012

Check out HBO's "The Newsroom"

By Jeff

At what point did people start thinking idealism and educating were bad things? I ask this question because there a lot of negative reviews for HBO's new series "The Newsroom".

The main reason many of these critics are panning the show is because they think it's "preachy", "idealistic" and "doesn't accurately portray a real-life newsroom".

All of these statements are true. Granted, my experience in a newsroom is limited, and I'm not sure many would consider the Pacific Daily News on Guam a real-life newsroom (I do). But putting that aside, the show is preachy, idealistic and some of the situations going on in the newsroom are not realistic.

While writers for the New York Times, Post-Gazette and Los Angeles Times think these three things are reasons to criticize the show, I'm drawn to these.

The show's premise is that news anchor Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels) has long been a popular media personality because he covers all the silly stories that drive ratings. They don't go into specifics, but I imagine the writers had any kind of celebrity gossip, any coverage of Sarah Palin, etc., as the kinds of topics McAvoy would cover.

Well, one day, McAvoy loses it at a college speaking event when asked "Why America is the Greatest Country in the World?" You've probably seen the clips as McAvoy goes off explaining how we're not the best in anything, liberals are losers and conservatives give moronic answers that don't make sense, but will make overly patriotic people nod their heads and think "Damn straight".

This leads to McAvoy's show, "News Night", changing. Instead of delivering fake news to bring in viewers, the show will live up to it's responsibility of trying to create an informed electorate. McAvoy gives an on-air apology for his past of dumbing down the news and vows that he will be different from now on, and will not hide his opinions.

Before I bore you with more synopsis, McAvoy takes on the Tea Party (the show was set in 2010) because they took over his (Republican) party.

McAvoy's apology and his staff's dedication to delivering real news are what critics of "The Newsroom" point to as an example of preaching and idealism. Sure, they have some lame lines, like when McAvoy ends his rant with "We'll be right back with the news," But the whole point of calling out the news media today for sucking is great!

We need to be preached to about this because people need to know how many of our news organizations are failing in informing us. In the past week alone CNN and Foxnews erroneously reported that the Affordable Care Act was struck down by the Supreme Court, when in actuality it was upheld. How did this mistake happen? Was information leaked too soon and incorrectly? No! The friggin' reporters just didn't read the whole document! They read one part and wanted to have the scoop, so they ended up reporting the wrong outcome.

Now look at these two same sites the past two days. For the majority of the morning Wednesday, CNN's top story was Tom Crusie and Katie Holmes getting divorced! Right now on Fox News, they are leading with President Obama using the presidential seal at speaking events, while the Penn State findings sit a few stories below.

When you look at how far news organizations have tanked to appease their readers, I'd say we need more preaching and idealism. When I was a journalism student, I wanted to make a difference. I pictured myself covering stories like the Jerry Sandusky case, or something worthy of attention that people needed to know about. But you look today, and there is so much crap out there.

That's why I love how "the Newsroom" is showing us how the news should be done. There are so many stories today where the journalists let their interviewees off the hook with crappy answers. "The Newsroom" shows McAvoy holding feet to the fire when his guests try to lie to him and his viewers, and I really wish today's journalists would do that more often. Today, people like Sarah Palin are seen as "analysts", but they spout off lies and misinformation left and right because they want to make their parties happy get attention. And journalists do nothing.

This is a completely harmless example, but remember a few seasons ago when everyone was making a big deal of the Steelers playing the Atlanta Falcons because Hines Ward had never beaten his hometown team? Ward kept telling people how nice it would be to finally win one against them, and the media ran with it. No one took the 10 second to check and see that in 1999 Ward and the Steelers beat the Falcons and Ward had three catches in the game.

Like I said, this is a harmless story, but it shows how the news media has began this trend of taking a sources word as truth and not doing the necessary legwork.

In "The Newsroom" McAvoy and his staff of idealistic young journalists take those extra steps to hold people accountable. Maybe the real news media doesn't like it because the show is right.

My idealism took a huge hit when I worked at the PDN. There were two specific stories that made me question why we were doing our jobs. First, there was a car review for Nissan, and the headline read "Nissan leaves us wanting more". Well, Nissan was an advertiser in the newspaper and got incredible upset with the headline. The editor responsible for said headline got chewed out and another review with a new headline was written.

The other was surrounded by the use of the word "god damnit". The attorney general of Guam used the phrase during a school inspection and the reporter ran with it. Well, Guam is a very Catholic island and the AG got pissed that he profanity made it into the paper. A correction had to be run and the decision makers chewed out the reporter and explained how the paper can't have indecent language like that. Yet the powers that be had no problem running advertisements for strip clubs in the paper. I'm pretty sure those establishments are more offensive and indecent than the term "god damnit".

These were just two examples of hypocrisy and advertising driving content, which is not the way it should be!

As for the critique of the unrealistic atmosphere in the news room all I have to say is NO SHIT. It's a tv show. Find me a show that perfectly portrays an industry. You can't. The show has to be unrealistic to be more appealing to people. If it was exactly like real life, people would be bored and tune off. They get plenty of real life in their real lives. They watch tv to get away from it.

All in all, the show is really good. Granted, I'm a liberal and it's been mostly tea party bashing so far, so I might be biased. But at it's heart, "The Newsroom" is commendable. I wish we were all a little more idealistic and preachy if that meant striving to be the best and not settling for what's trendy or popular.

The Beatles - Get Back


  1. I agree completely that The Newsroom is a lot better than critics are portraying it to be. The only reason The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and every other critic are so harshly criticizing the show is because they are all members of the media, the sole target of Sorkin’s hatred in The Newsroom. The show at least delivers a societal message that leaves me with something to think about, and creates a great topic of discussion around the office at Dish the next day; that spells out great TV to me! So far, it has left me intrigued and I plan to keep it on my DVR list just to see what message Sorkin will deliver each week. That being said, I have the Hopper DVR with loads of recording space so, if the show does turn out to be the disaster the critics are depicting it to be, at least I didn’t waste precious time or memory on it. I think we are right on this one though; Sorkin has done well with The Newsroom!