This summer, I kept up with two things: The Kardashians, and HBO’s new series “The Newsroom.”
Call me crazy, but I’m actually a little more embarrassed about the latter.
For those of you who aren’t journalism majors (or who have too much pride to mooch off of your parent’s HBO-GO account), “The Newsroom” is screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s opus about the state of modern American journalism.
It uses real events, like Osama bin Laden’s death and the Casey Anthony trial, for Sorkin to comment on the failings of cable news shows to adequately educate the American electorate.
Don’t get me wrong: The show is full of noble ideas. A newsroom trying to actually report news, be a watchdog and take a stand against government institutions? That’s what I thought I signed up for when I majored in journalism.
The ideas are great, but ideas mean nothing if the execution isn’t there. And when Sorkin wrote “The Newsroom,” he invested a lot of time into pontificating grand ideas, but he forgot how to present those grand ideas in a way that doesn’t entirely dilute their value.
Foremost, Sorkin intersperses cutting observations about American media, such as how cable news devolved into a highly entertaining freak show during the Casey Anthony trial, with unnecessary depictions of the tangled love triangles within the fictional newsroom.
Call me crazy, but I think it’s ironic that a show meant to be filled with insightful observations about the state of media continuously falls victim to the tendencies that it’s trying to condemn. True, it’s a fictional show that’s clearly meant to entertain, but if it isn’t obvious enough from the sanctimonious credit sequence full of the heroic newsmen of yore, it’s trying to do a lot more than just that.
Another fundamental flaw of “The Newsroom” is that, while it’s filled with lofty ideas of what reporting should be, it has no idea what reporting actually is.
In every episode, some sort of lucky connection, like the lead anchor’s golfing relationship with Joe Biden, or the fact that an intern went to high school with Casey Anthony, leads to some sort of big break.
That’s not the way it is. Usually, reporting is a dirty process that combines stalking and Googling, that combines lots of voicemails and useless interviews with occasional, fleeting glimpses of that mysterious underlying answer you’re searching for. Personal connections play a role, but it doesn’t happen every single time.
And if you’re trying to comment on how most reporters get it wrong, like Aaron Sorkin clearly is during “The Newsroom,” then it might be worth it to get the reporting element right. I know I could probably report on the CSU administration far better if my cousin were Tony Frank’s personal beard-stylist, but he’s not, so I just have to work my way around it.
The depictions of journalism in “The Newsroom” are infuriating, but for some reason I keep watching. And I keep watching because I think that, at the end of the day, it actually has good intentions.
I genuinely do think that journalism should serve all of the functions that Sorkin preaches, and I agree that often, it fails. I don’t watch “The Newsroom” because I think it’s an insightful behind-the-scenes look at the profession I’m interested in. I watch it because it’s entertaining, and it sometimes gives me things to think about.
Hopefully, as you read our coverage of the election and, more pressingly, President Obama’s date with CSU on Tuesday, the guiding principles of informing our electorate, and not simply serving as yet another entertainment outlet, are evident in our content.
And as a media consumer, I encourage you to at least watch “The Newsroom” once, because even though parts of it are inaccurate and downright hypocritical, it will hopefully offer a glimpse into what your nightly news could do for you.
As I said before, the ideas are there, it’s just the execution that’s missing. And hopefully during the second season of “The Newsroom,” I won’t feel as annoyed keeping up with it as I do the Kardashians.
Editor in Chief Allison Sylte is a senior journalism major. Her column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.