The Newsroom S01 E08 – The Blackout Part 1: Tragedy Porn

It’s May 2011 this time on Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant HBO drama The Newsroom, and while other new programs are covering the trial of Casey Anthony, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and his team are taking the high road, and not pandering with what they consider info-tainment.

And you know what, they are right to. The entire episode focuses on the dumbing down of news programs something News Night is willing to do so they can get the debates later on.

Charlie (Sam Waterston), Will and Mackenzie (Emily Mortimer) are all unhappy about it, but literally half of their viewers changed the channel to watch more about the trial.

Reese Lansing (Chris Messina) on the other hand, is delighted to see them willing to ‘lower’ themselves to cover what he considers news, but the trio, and their entire team consider info-tainment.

Maggie (Alison Pill) gets embroiled in the twitter tumult that developed around Senator Anthony Weiner, and has to vet a woman who wants her 15 minutes of fame, because she was one of the woman he tweeted.

Through all of this, Will is auditioning a print journalist, Bryan Brenner (Paul Schneider), who used to work for Newsweek, and now has a blog, to write a piece on him for New York Magazine. But it’s also a move that hurts Mac (something Will’s doctor, Jack Habib (David Kruumholtz) points out). Bryan is the ex that she cheated on Will with.

All of this causes tensions to be high in the newsroom.

Sloan (Olivia Munn) wants to lead with the story about the vote on raising the country’s debt ceiling, trying to explain how disastorous it could be for the country. Mac, while not understanding it all, knows it’s important, but thanks to the dumbing down, info-tainment version of News Night they have to do, there may not be time for it.

So instead of presenting the people with important stories, stories that can directly impact their lives, information that can allow them to make informed voting decisions, ‘news’ outlets continue with info-tainment to appease the masses.

And we know Will isn’t happy about it, but he really wants the debates…

Weaved around this is Charlie’s story this week as he meets up with “Late For Dinner” an Assistant Director at the NSA named Solomon Hancock (Stephen Henderson) who after proving his credentials in 5/1 supplies Charlie with info about a project called “Global Clarity,” a warrantless, illegal tapping of American citizens.

He also ties it in with James Murdoch and the phone-hacking that went on under his watch at The Guardian.

He lets drop the little nugget that TMI, the news magazine the Lansings own and are using to try and oust Will from the their newtork, are guilty of the same crime.

Charlie gets Jim (John Gallagher Jr) to start vetting the info, telling him that “We don’t need it fast, we need it right. And we need it fast.”

As a very unhappy Will settles in to do a pre-taping with the Anthony Weiner Tweeter, Mac asks for a sign on whether or not they should do this.

And the power goes out as the episode ends, leaving us wondering if Will is going to go through with it, or if he’s going to try and stick to his newly established standards and report the news and the facts, not an entertainment story.

It’s an interesting thought, because as Mac points out, its not news, there are no confirmed facts, there are just tweets, and because sex is involved, it’s obviously national news. Which is a sad commentary on our society because it’s true.

Don’t worry about the facts, or vetting, or even it should be news, just go for ratings! Because it’s business.

BUT IT SHOULDN’T BE.

The news SHOULD be open, honest, presenting the facts, and asking the tough questions, not getting shut down by corporations who threaten to pull advertising if the story doesn’t spin their way. There should be a responsibility to show things as they are, not draped in PR, and half-truths.

There are journalists out there that are trying to do that, but are getting shut down, because corporations don’t want the story told, or the story gets shoved aside because it’s too smart, and not info-tainment.

Hopefully we can get to a point, when political and financial agendas aren’t controlling what is, by definition, supposed to be a publc service.

But as long as people are happy to consider Snooki’s pregnancy ‘news’, I think journalism in general is going to be ignored and info-tainment, political, financial and religious propaganda masquerading as news will continue to be the course of the day.

Sigh.

Man I love this show.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Your Friendly Neighborhood says:

    I agree with you. This show is amazing not simply because of the lovely, and much needed, spin it has on delivering the news, but also good writing, with one-liners and sarcastic qips out of the whazoo! Do you know of any relevance to the information being shown in the show? I know it is fictional surrounding real subjects and figures, but is the information presented purely for the episode or are there any basis of reality? I remember my first watching it and how surprised I was about how much I didn’t know. Please share if you have anything that I can look up. Much appreciated!

    1. Your Friendly Neighborhood says:

      Just want to see if I clicked on “follow-up comments via email.”

    2. TD Rideout says:

      In terms of the news that Will and his team report, as far as I can tell it is based on actual fact. Much like the members of the Newsroom, I like to check, and then recheck my story before posting it. I think a lot of the news these characters give us, is actually out there on the day it happens, but of course can get buried, or simply not even followed up on because of corporate or political decisions.
      I tend to make notes through each episode, writing down dates, names, and subjects, and then settle in to Google and check international news sources to confirm the news story points.
      Of course you can’t really find anything on ‘Global Clarity,’ but that doesn’t mean a project like that doesn’t exist…

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