In My Book: ‘The Newsroom’ and Optimism

Last night after watching the pilot episode of ‘The Newsroom’ on HBO, I updated a status to Facebook: “Any show that makes an oblique reference to ‘The Merchant of Venice’ is a show worth watching, in my book.”

This caused me to think — why do we say “in my book,” as if we are actually writing a book of our thoughts and opinions to share with the general populace? It doesn’t make much sense. It does, however, provide an excuse for a blog entry with a saccharin heading and category. Onward!

‘The Newsroom’ on HBO had one of the finest pilots that I’ve seen in recent memory last night (6.24). Aaron Sorkin, who is the show’s creator, is no stranger to politically infused primetime drama through proof of the smash show, ‘The West Wing.’

‘The West Wing’ inspired a generation of individuals to engage in a confusing and distancing political process through its depiction of hope in government. While it was, clearly, liberal wish-fulfillment, it was done exceedingly well.

‘The Newsroom’ begins a story set a few years in the past — a move that allows the show to become falsely prophetic. The pilot episode’s drama centered around the BP oil spill two years ago and how the news of the disaster was portrayed to the public.

Jeff Daniels (who plays cable anchor Will McAvoy) creates a character who is striving to break out of the polarized culture of broadcast journalism in an effort to create a news program like the good ol’ days.

While the effort is admirable, the notion that the nation needs news like it was in the past reeks of sentimentalism. “The good ol’ days” of broadcast journalism? I doubt that the individuals who viewed and created television news during the middle of the 20th century thought that they were in the literal prime-time of the genre.

That said, it is abundantly clear that there is a problem with the news media today. ‘The Newsroom’ is a fictional reaction to the polar opposite and dysfunctional networks of Fox and CNN. While it tries to play the middle of the road, it is clear that Sorkin is, again, promoting a liberal agenda within the series. Does this create a disconnect between the message of moderation with the juxtaposition of liberal ideology? It does not.

As the perceived “center” of political discussion in this country is, at the moment, to the right, a shift to the perceived left in ‘The Newsroom’ is really nothing more than a return to the original center. We are expected to engage — to discuss. We must question authority while we pay respect to it. To do so is not to become a Democrat or Indepedent — it is to become an informed citizen.

Hopefully, ‘The Newsroom’ continues forward with its strong message and stellar acting as the season progresses. I know I’ll be watching.


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5 thoughts on “In My Book: ‘The Newsroom’ and Optimism

  1. anna.auel says:

    I’m glad you pointed out that the past is seen all too often as “the good ‘ole days” when at the time it was happening it was just normal–and without the golden sheen of greatness we so often paint over it.

    I think it is important to remember that, while maybe the “good ‘ole days” weren’t so good, people were still trying to improve the condition of whatever media outlet they worked in, rather than, as McAvoy points out in the beginning of the pilot, living in what feels like the worst of everything and being content to pander or maintain the status quo.

    One of the things I like about the show is the very optimism it’s getting heat for–I need to have hope that the system can be changed, and that people exist who want to change it and are changing it, hell even that I can change it!

    People need to stop hatin’ on Sorkin!

  2. Talking about the center takes effort in and of itself. Judging whether the center has shifted Left or Right depends on the base year of comparison as well as how you define Left and Right. If you choose the base year of 2000, the center, at least on economics, has actually shifted to the Left. We have several government programs, such as Medicare Part D, which we did not have in 2000 and will probably never repeal. Do we now define the center as gradually growing government, gradually shrinking it, or keeping it the same? How can we say the country has shifted Right when the Republican Party does not propose any significant cuts to government spending and is constantly on defense on social issues? On the other hand, if you focus on foreign policy, you could say that the country has shifted far to the Right, as we are more militarily involved overseas than we ever have been. Not even Reagan considered Eastern Europe to be of vital national interest to the U.S., but McCain, Bush, and Romney are all willing to make war pacts with Eastern European States. So it seems that the nation is hardcore Leftist economically and socially but hardcore conservative when it comes to foreign policy. But then you must ask: is hyperactively policing the world conservative? Not to the Founding Fathers, Robert Taft, or Eisenhower. At the same time, we have to ask if many of the progressive views are progressive at all. How is forcing poor people to compete with illegal immigrants for jobs progressive? How is inflating the currency, which punishes those on fixed income, progressive? Not only does the “center” depend on base year, it depends on the definitions of Left and Right, both of which are more ambiguous than we originally believed. Instead of talking about the center at all, one alternative is to recognize that there is no such thing as a political “tradition” at all. There are only movements which live, make history, achieve glory, and then fade into irrelevance and die. There is no “conservative” or “progressive” tradition, but there could be a movement, for example, to end overseas military intervention, or to restrict abortion to the first trimester, or to replace the tax system with a national sales tax (essentially, a backdoor tariff to bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.). Identifying oneself with specific movements, and not “Left”, “Right”, or “Center”, has the benefit of concreteness and relevance, but the drawback is that one has to forsake the use of historical analogies as well as the identity politics which have proven so effective on the Left and Right.

  3. When it comes to news, productivity, as Jack Hunter wrote, might be better than objectivity. If the Democratic news networks were harder on Republicans while the Republican news networks were harder on Democrats, everyone would benefit. Media bias is an easily solvable problem–we can just change the channel. If every American committed themselves to watching two, instead of one, news network, media bias would be a non-issue. The real danger is when the media on both sides becomes more interested in fluff pieces than disciplined journalistic work. The question is not whether the GOP news should attack Obama or the Democrat news should attack Romney. The question is: will the GOP news attack Obama’s governance, or the fact that he bowed to some foreign Statesman? Will the Democrat news attack Romney’s record, or the fact that someone at his rally said something that could be twisted to be vaguely considered racist? The type of attacks the partisan news networks make is more important than whether they attack. We can survive partisan news–all we have to do is channel surf back and forth–but we cannot survive lazy, tabloid-style news.

  4. Great post, by the way. Aaron Sorkin’s the man.

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