When Aaron Sorkin first devised the gobbledygook that is now known as ‘The Newsroom’, we all knew it was going to be some preachy stuff. As a fan of the West Wing, I thought, ‘okay, I can take it’.
Wrong. So bloody wrong.
Maybe it’s because the subject he’s throwing a tantrum about is something I care about greatly, but every time Will McAvoy gets on that soap box and opens his mouth, and god forbid when Mackenzie McHale opens hers, I cringe. Like, really, really cringe.
You know, I remember reading some junk from Sorkin when he first started touting the show about it being about some blahdy blah commentary on the current state of the media in the United States.
Whatever, that’s all well and good. We need some biting criticism of sorts I imagine. Things aren’t okay. Clearly.
But it wasn’t until I was plopped on my sofa last Monday morning watching the latest episode that I realize that Sorkin hit the nail on the head with his criticisms and his soap box tirades.
I just think this was a bit inadvertent. I’m not sure where y’all watching this on Sky Atlantic are at in the season, so I’ll try not to spoil anything as I attempt to summarize the scene: Will McAvoy is about to slap his John Hancock on a check written out to a tabloid reporter.
Then she makes some comment about them both being the same game – journalism that is.
Cue the soap box.
McAvoy goes on this overwrought speech about how tabloid and celebrity gossip isn’t journalism, it doesn’t tackle the important issues like the economy, the decay of the American Dream and whatever else is wrong with society today.
And that moment there – is where Sorkin actually gets it right.
Ben Bradlee, the Washington Post’s famous editor once said something to the extent of (and I’m paraphrasing here) the hardest part of the gig is balancing what the people want to know, and what they need to know. That point always seems a bit lost these days, especially when the Will McAvoy-types are delivering it.
Of course here is this appalled tabloid writer, who by the way, probably gets more hits on her website than the entire Newsnight operation does, and she just sort of acts offended (because you know, there are very few, if not any, female characters with any sort of gusto in an Aaron Sorkin production. Everyone with boobs is a step away from tears).
The point is this, there’s a lot of good journalism out there – and even in fictional Sorkin-land, Newsnight ain’t doing a bad job, the problem is this though, they’re all preaching to the godamned choir.
The Newsroom, as a show, is doing the same thing. Its message about journalism, whatever it is even supposed to be, isn’t being heard by the people who need to hear it – becuase it’s not even aimed at them.
Just like some of the best journalism being done today.
Image courtesy of Paul Keller
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