‘The Newsroom’ shows us what media could, maybe should be
by Justin McGill, General Manager -- jmcgill@cadizrecord.com
Jul 18, 2012 | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Q; What is a Liberal Republican?

A: A misnomer.

The question was posed online at Yahoo Answers. The answer was the top response as selected by voters at the site.

Whether you agree with, disagree with, are offended by or entertained by that answer will likely determine whether you’d enjoy watching the new drama series “The Newsroom” on HBO.

I say that pessimistically, as I don’t believe many Americans can watch a politically-driven television show or movie without allowing their own political leanings to impact their perception of and reaction to it.

“The Newsroom” stars Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy, host of the nightly news program “News Night” and self-described liberal Republican. However, the first episode of the program begins with McAvoy agrees to change the tone of “News Night” to better reflect what news broadcasts used to be like during what he believes to be their golden age. The goal of this switch is to better educate the American electorate by ignoring commercial, corporate and political influences.

The show was created and is shaped by Aaron Sorkin, so your enjoyment or dislike of the fast-paced, witty, intellectual dialogue of “The West Wing” will likely inform how you feel about “The Newsroom.” However, with a show so politically charged, more important than the presentation is the content.

One thing viewers will note about “The Newsroom” is that each episode deals with real-life events rather than fabricated ones. Through the first four weeks of the program (which begins in 2010 and works its way forward), the characters have tackled the BP oil spill off the coast of Louisiana, the 2010 election, the Tea Party movement and the shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

This allows the program to comment on how national media handled major news events and, at times, show how things could (and, presumably according to Sorkin, should) have been done differently.

How accurately does “The Newsroom” portray the media? Again, it depends upon your perspective. In some ways, my opinion of cable news outlets mirrors McAvoy’s – most of them place too much priority on one political party being perpetually right while the other is always wrong. Most place too much emphasis on ad revenue. McAvoy makes an interesting point about how the government could have prevented hyper-biased networks like FOX News and CNN by outlawing paid advertising on mandated nightly news broadcasts. This even becomes an issue with Atlantis World Media, the fictional home of “News Night.”

As for the actual news room “The News Room” portrays, my personal experience says it’s shown fairly accurately. I can’t speak from experience with a television newsroom, but the personal and professional drama the characters face each week seems reasonable.

Bottom line: If you insist upon watching “The Newsroom” as a dyed-in-the-wool Republican or Democrat, you’ll be sorely disappointed. If you watch it as a realist who agrees that national news outlets need to shift their priorities, you just might end up wishing Will McAvoy and his crew were real-world news professionals.

Justin McGill is executive editor of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at jmcgill@cadizrecord.com.
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