Monday, July 23, 2012

Why So Serious, 'The Newsroom?'...

The Newsroom makes me feel bad for choosing to write about television when their are wars in the world.

What started out as a simple Tweet has become a serious internal discussion with myself after watching the most recent episode of Aaron Sorkin's HBO drama. Ironically, due to TCA prep, I caught the episode late and therefore it is still on the forefront of my mind. But I suspect it would have been even if I had watched it "live" on Sunday at 10pm. It is the kind of show from which you need to decompress after. The end credits roll, to a sad score that has started on the end wrap-up that resembles a modern day montage, and you sit back in your bed or at your desk or on your couch or wherever you watch your TV these days and just think about not only what you've watched but what it all means.

There is a commentary I want to make about the way in which journalism is moving in the entertainment world. In order to tell that story, I built a blogger character into my pilot. To see the way that world moves and can chance a person's behavior (even the good and moral due some shady, underhanded shit when a paycheck is on the line) may not be interesting to all when you look at the nitty gritty specifics of running rumors and not properly sourcing, but its message should be universally understood because it can be applied to a number of industries.

The Newsroom has already started telling that tale, though. With the politics behind parent companies owning both hard news outlets (News Night) and tabloids (T.M.I) and by exploring the general practices, admittedly mostly through exposition right now, we see just how hard some work to stamp their story as legitimate and just how little some don't care if their story is legitimate. In the hard news or the "real world," if you don't confirm your sources, if you don't have a man on the ground, if you don't cross all your Ts and dot all your Is, lives can be lost, not just ruined. In entertainment, your fifteen minutes are ticking down anyway, and very few actually care if you're going to end on a high note or with your name dragged through the mud.

What I also love about The Newsroom is the sense of urgency. It speaks to what I go through on a daily basis when "news" (read: TV show deals or casting announcements) breaks. There is an adrenaline rush to get your information and get it up first, even if not completely accurately or complete at all. Surely, those in newsrooms dealing in shootings and Congress rulings and war feel that pressure 100 fold. But they still hold onto procedure, if not dignity. Well, for the most part.

When you're a reporter of any kind, people expect you to deliver the facts-- not your assumption or opinion based on an expertise you're faking. Reporting someone has died simply because she got shot in the head and nine times out of ten those things don't end well is sloppy and offensive. But too many people today don't want to be reporters; they want to be celebrities-- they want to be the story. And they know that by breaking a story first, even if it's wrong or incomplete, their name will be credited with the "FIRST!" of it all-- cited, sourced, referenced for speed (and sometimes quantity) but not necessarily accuracy (or quality). It's a sad state of things. Journalism in general has become one big internet comment board.

The Newsroom gets on a high horse about how news should be done, but it does so too seriously-- so that it feels like it is scolding you at times, rather than inspiring you. We all know taking money not to run a story is a bribe. We don't need a guy to be so sanctimonious about it. We have yet to see anyone at News Night misreport or be too slow to be with the trend, let alone ahead of it. I can only imagine the kind of hellfire that Will McAvoy might rain down if they did. It's hard to argue with them when they're right. But (for example) using Gabrielle Giffords' shooting was a heavy-handed way to drill that lesson in (and honestly, I'd love to learn if her family approved)-- setting it to freakin' Coldplay was a whole other kind of narrative manipulation. The music dictates how you should feel-- or even *that* you should be feeling something at any given moment. The Newsroom doesn't allow the audience to decide for itself if it sympathizes, let alone agrees, with the show's plight.

The Newsroom has a lot of really important things to say. I just wish it would trust us enough to be led to learn the lessons, rather than have them yelled in our faces. 

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