The U.S. news media has evolved since its early years. From the earliest American newspapers published before independence to the emergence of yellow journalism and the beginnings of sensationalism to the hard-hitting days of the widely trusted Walter Cronkite, the American public has been riding on a roller coaster of media ethics and credibility, a ride that continues today. It is hard to keep faith in a media so obviously biased and rating-hungry, leaving me to imagine what a truly objective news source would look like. I believe that I, along with many other viewers, have found what I’ve been searching for in Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO vision, The Newsroom.
By reporting real news events that have occurred over the past two years with real facts, The Newsroom finally gives viewers what they have been denied by a national media gone soft and trashy — the truth. But the aim of the show goes beyond revealing the facts behind the issues facing the United States, past and present; it reveals the potential of the media to promote democracy by responsibly creating a well-informed electorate. Instead of tackling the news media with cynicism, The Newsroom uses an optimism that has revamped my faith in a truly responsible media.
Within only the first five minutes of the first episode, veteran anchor of ACN gone soft, Will Mcavoy (played by Jeff Daniels), shocks a college audience by taking them (and viewers) on a wake-up call of a journey through the failures of the United States over the past few years. This is followed by in my opinion an even BETTER monologue by his new producer, Mackenzie MacHale (portrayed by Emily Mortimer), who uses her optimism and dream of an honest and forthright news broadcast to inspire the anchor to change the media scene, convincing him to embark on a “mission to civilize.”
I wish this show was not limited to subscribers of HBO or those, like myself, who happen to know someone with an HBO Go account. It is truthful and entertaining, and the populace has much to learn from this great Sorkin creation. Below are only a few of the conclusions and moments of clarity I have reached during my journey with The Newsroom. Enjoy.
- I have never been able to quite understand what it meant to be a republican or a democrat. I’ll admit — I would google definitions and search for articles looking for clarity on the values and platforms of the two major parties but would always find myself confused and feeling dumb for feeling confused about something millions Americans seemed so sure about. Something wasn’t connecting between what I was reading and what I was observing from politicians. After McAvoy’s report during the season finale comparing the statements of current “Republican” spokespeople to the wishes of the writers of the constitution, I have to say I have found my missing link (the Sasquatch really, only The Newsroom watchers would catch that one). The anchor identifies as “what the Tea Party would call a RINO, a Republican In Name Only, and that’s ironic because that is exactly what I (McAvoy) would refer to members of the Tea Party.” He continues by giving one of the most simple, concrete explanations of what values were held by the original Republicans: a prohibitive military, a common-sense government, law and order, free market capitalism, the presence of effective social programs amongst an abundance of ineffective programs that are costing our country a lot of money. I also love the clarification McAvoy makes with republicanism and the use of religion to justify platforms. I could go on and on about this argument and the misinterpretation and misuse of religion to justify action, and The Newstoom looks to the founding fathers to clear the air. My favorite quote of the broadcast: “Our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions.” -Thomas Jefferson. It sure doesn’t feel that way with prominent “Republicans” claiming that the constitution was written on Christian morals when, simply, it was not.
It might sound like I am over-idolizing the characters of the show, or that in my starry-eyed fascination I am simply mimicking the principles of the fictional personalities that I have looked up to over the last week. Well, maybe that is a small part of it. But if this show has taught me anything, it is to look at the facts and make educated decisions based on logic and research. Don’t worry, I wont plaster myself or my car with RINO or “I heart Will McAvoy” stickers any time soon. I am simply excited to look into the origins of the political parties to feel more confident when identifying with a one.
- Something that surprised me: A few of the main characters take prescription anxiety and depression medications. At first I was disappointed when I interpreted the mention of Xanax in the third episode as a common product placement. I jumped to the conclusion that the writers were taking sides on the justification of anti-depression medication as a cure for mental health disorders. Pretty silly of a show whose newsroom takes pride on presenting all sides of an argument. It only took a few episodes, or a few minutes rather, to recognize the intention of The Newsroom to promote the use of counseling and verbal therapy as a healthier option. Examples: Maggie’s anxiety subsides when Jim consoles and advises her to calm herself down. Will visits a psychiatrist expecting a fifteen minute appointment followed by a prescription, but the doctor spends an hour digging into McAvoy’s past so that he will identify the root of his depression. In the finale, Will develops a life-threatening ulcer from an antidepressant overdose, exhibiting the potential effects of dangerous anti-depressant medication.
After bringing this wondering up to a good friend and soon-to-be doctor of psychology, I understand now that antidepressants are necessary in many cases of mental illness, just not as long-term treatment like they are frequently being used as today. I commend the show for addressing this controversial issue in a subtle and honest way.
- I have enjoyed relating to the thoughts and intentions of many of the characters of The Newsroom. But honestly, I find myself relating to a new, unlikely addition to the team – the sorority girl in the first episode who asks the panel at her school why America is the best country in the world. As much as I would like to participate in politics, I just don’t have enough information. Realistically, I would not have the knowledge or the confidence to participate in one of Sorkin’s fast-paced, political-savvy conversations that we see in The Newsroom. They show me how much I still have to learn before I can really take politics seriously. And that is why, after a few seconds of protest, McAvoy enthusiastically invites the “idiotic sorority girl” to join the team. The anchor recognizes that she is not at all idiotic, but a member of an incoming generation of leaders who have been hand-fed false declarations of American “ideologies” and are beginning to question them and to learn more – to learn WELL. So I will no longer deny being the recent college graduate and sorority alumna that I am, and I will begin to educate myself on the important issues facing my country.
I apologize for the random order of the above tidbits. I am a big fan of the show, and I look forward to the next season.