First let me say this up-front: The Newsroom is an idealization of what the news ought to be in the Internet age. In this series, Sorkin essentially rewrites how the major stories of the day (BP oil spill, the financial crisis, the assassination of Osama bin Laden) ought to have been reported. And (even though he does give Will a conservative thought or two) Sorkin writes about these and other issues from a liberal perspective. So that’s one problem. The other is that he never really comes to grips with how a news organization is supposed to make money in the Internet age where everyone has a voice. (As you can readily see because you are reading these pearls of wisdom on an Internet site.) And when Newsroom does try to tackle the whole money question it fails rather miserably. Lucas (the billionaire who buys the Atlantis Cable News and tries to make it into something a kind of over-the-top Fox is treated with the utmost disdain. But then the old billionaire-owner (Leona) didn’t get much sympathy when she merely tried to use her news network for political influence. So, money (or rather the need to make a profit) is not an issue that is treated with any seriousness here. This is an idealistic series.
Having said that (and there are a lot of criticisms that can be and have been leveled at Newsroom fairly and perhaps not as fairly), it is an absorbing show. I think there are two reasons for that. First of all, while it definitely has a liberal bias, it is not a blindly liberal bias. There are several characters (Will is a good example) of conservative points of view. The show side-steps the whole GOP infighting by having Will bemoan how his party is being hijacked by the Tea Party (and who thereby lower news standards) but he does express what are legitimate conservative concerns about the GOP and the world at large. But more than that, the characters on the show are all to a greater or lesser degree deeply flawed and deeply committed. And as a result, they both exemplify the forces that are tearing us apart right now and, at the same time, because they are forced to work together (and hence talk to one another) in order to produce this one show, they somehow find exactly the right response to any story as it happens.
Their responses to the oil spill and Osama bin Laden perhaps encapsulates this better than anything. That, and the really good acting made me sit and root for the characters. And it kept me watching.
And yes I know all the criticisms. It’s liberal; in real life they would have gone off air in a heartbeat because really who watches actual news anymore? Etc. But a part of me rejects that. Because wouldn’t it be nice if I could turn on the news and get the Newsroom?
And until we do… well, there’s the show.
Product Name: The Newsroom
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A wonderful, idealistic show despite (or maybe because of) its flaws.