Leading up to the premier of The Newsroom, I was excited. I was excited for more writing of the always-on-key Aaron Sorkin, and excited about an often underappreciated Jeff Daniels. Sorkin’s flare for great dialogue as seen in all of his work was enough for me to tune in. After the first scene, the writing was already seen to be on point with expectations, but it was something else that struck me that really let me know that this series was going to resonate with me.
The Newsroom helps highlight what is wrong with our current news industry, and hammers that point home in the first few minutes. There is a conservative raving about how wanting taxes inhibits freedom and patriotism, and a liberal attacking the money spent on war, and most noticeably Daniels’ Will McAvoy; an anchor more focused on being liked than taking on an issue head on. After dodging a few tough questions head on, he explodes into a tirade that lands him in public scrutiny as well as losing his staff to another anchors show. This opening sequence, along with the rest of the episode, really nails the issue with our current news system.
Our news is often broken down into bi partisan rants, or worse, puff pieces that no longer take on any real issue. We are left uninformed on all sides, and in fact it drives us all apart. The issue that is the crux in The Newsroom is about how our country’s once respected and celebrated news system that used to stand for the greater good has divulged into broken system that is more worried about being bankrolled by corporate sponsors and not stepping on any financial toes than to report quality news. Not just quality news, but news that makes any difference or sheds light on to any real issue.
This series has already shown its hand as a controversial drama, but there are lessons that are in here that need to be listened to. Sorkin’s use of dialogue and storyline shows that the issue at the heart isn’t overly aggressive news channels, or the issue of a station being too liberal or conservative. The issue at the heart of our national news problem is that we cater. We either cater to people based on those aforementioned party lines, or we cater to the station and its rankings. In either of those cases, what is left behind a system that doesn’t care about real reporting or news stories.
Once again, HBO has done a wonderful job with their choice of programming, but this specific program holds a special place in my heart. While I enjoy most HBO shows, I don’t think all programming really matters. By this I mean that some shows entertain, some inform, and The Newsroom does the latter. Studying media as a part of both my undergraduate and graduate work, I got to see the history of our once great news system degrade into another form of ratings and money makers. It is sometimes appalling to see what details are glossed over in an effort to protect corporate sponsors’ best interest or to make sure that your program is the most popular. The truth is that news has one main purpose, and that is to inform its citizens so we can have the strongest, most knowledgeable people possible. However, that seems to be lost.
The Newsroom matters. The Newsroom is important. Its role is one that we really need right now, which is to break down what is important about the role of news media, and to help fight against all the weaknesses that has brought it so far down. I for one am excited to watch this show, and am hoping that it can play a strong cultural role for viewers.
Jordan Mendys is an independent filmmaker and media professional. He is also an entertainment blogger that helps blog for DirecTV.