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The Newsroom: "News Night 2.0" OAD 7/1/12 ***SPOILERS***


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#1 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 01:18 PM

Let's begin with a look at real life. Back in August 2010 CNN’s DC bureau chief David Bohrman and CNN political director Sam Feist produced the following memo:

From David Bohrman and Sam Feist:

We are thrilled to announce that today, Patricia DiCarlo becomes the Executive Producer of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. In her three years at CNN, Patricia has demonstrated that not only is she an outstanding journalist, she has also emerged as an important leader at CNN.

Patricia’s 15 years in broadcast journalism have spanned important producing positions from WFLA and WTVT in Tampa all the way to the Oprah Winfrey show in Chicago. Under the leadership of CNN’s own Katherine Green, Patricia ran one of the largest newsrooms in Washington, DC as Executive Producer at WTTG-TV. Everyone who has worked with Patricia DiCarlo will agree that she is tenacious, full of ideas, full of energy, and a virtual force of nature. The energy and enthusiasm Patricia brings to everything she does will be a perfect fit as she takes the helm of the Sitroom. And we couldn’t be more pleased to have found our new executive producer within our own ranks.

Please join us in congratulating Patricia, Wolf, and the whole Situation Room team.

David and Sam

What bugs me about this memo is that sentence "Patricia’s 15 years in broadcast journalism have spanned important producing positions from WFLA and WTVT in Tampa all the way to the Oprah Winfrey show in Chicago." So the "Oprah Winfrey Show" is considered "journalism"???

Last night I realized that the show accurately reflects the reality of 21st Century American television news which is worse than the worst possible nightmare scenarios imagined by Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite. The meaning of "journalism" as they knew it is dead.

As I watched the first 33 seconds of the opening credits/intro sequence of "The Newsroom" last night...



...I realized that the show reflects a nostalgic Aaron Sorkin writing a fantasy where the male characters are simultaneously bigger than life and run things, like in the 1950's.

Other than the men being "bigger than life", is it a fantasy? The cable news channel news-prime-time (6-7 pm) anchors are CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Fox's Shepard Smith, MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

Last night's episode is taking hits among reviewers because of its portrayal of women. Hey, folks, let's back up a notch. This is Sorkin's fantasy, we've only seen two episodes, and over at CNN the male honchos see "The Oprah Winfrey Show" as journalism in the context of a woman producer's experience, even though she stayed there only 1 year and 1 month before returning to real news.

I'm not so sure Sorkin is that far off.

As seen by Sorkin, there are three critical sources of philosophical conflict in early 21st Century television news. Two were presented in this episode by the character Mackenzie MacHale (well-portrayed by Emily Mortimer) as keys to the main story arc of the series:

In an argument with News Night's anchor Will McAvoy she states the first element of Sorkin's belief's about what the television news should be:

MacHale: "We don't do good television we do the news."

The second is an exchange between MacHale and the other members of the newsroom, mostly younger people who grew up with the current news style. In the exchange we hear the second element of Sorkin's belief's about television news, this time about bias:

MacHale: "The media's biased towards success and the media's biased towards fairness.

Maggie Jordan: "How can you be biased towards fairness?"

MacHale: "There aren't two sides to every story. Some stories have five sides, some only have one."

In response to the obvious skepticism of the younger staff, McAvoy elaborates: "Bias towards fairness means that if the entire Republican Congressional Caucus were to walk into the House and propose a resolution stating that the Earth was flat, the Times would lead with Democracts and Republicans can't agree on shape of Earth."

The third critical philosophical conflict is the issue of ratings and popularity versus integrity of content and informing the viewer.

Sorkin seems to be framing this last conflict as an economic issue, which it is. But he isn't clearly presenting the reality of cable news networks. If no one watches, you aren't informing anyone. And, if your "integrity" is so great you don't tend to reflect a political ideology, no one will watch because cable news is mostly background noise, except for the believers who "pay the bills" in the cable news competition.

McAvoy's speech in the first episode is about what's wrong with Americans - not what's wrong with America. In it he said about the past: "And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed."

In this episode Sorkin is saying in his fantasy is that we cannot become an informed people if all we're looking for is entertainment. But what several characters in the story are saying is what the larger audience is looking for in television news is entertainment.

Which brings us to this show which is supposed to be entertainment.

Other than the ideologues who hate Sorkin for his political views, the show is getting the most criticism for what the first two episodes have not been. They have not been the representation of the well-written soap opera. Sorkin has not focused on creating believable characters.

What's most worrisome about this is the fact that Sorkin is writing this series without a "writers room" where others can expand his horizon regarding people, particularly women at the beginning of the 21st Century. This means that while the show is powerful with solid "production values" it is similar to "Mad Men" in that it is primarily the sole creation of one fifty-ish man. The female characters are not accurately represented according to their female contemporaries.

In "The Newsroom" the focus on the two women important to the story so far has been painted with a fog about relationships with the men they work with and even men they dated in college. That probably was a bad idea, at least for the first few episodes.

Edited by phrelin, 02 July 2012 - 01:25 PM.

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
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#2 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 10:27 PM

Man, second ep was awful. Talky, all that classic Sorkin machine-gun insider blitz chatter, I can't follow it and I'm a media guy! Can they possibly talk any faster? Are they getting paid by the word??

At least next week it looks like something actually happens. As opposed to this week. Has this show already jumped the Shark?

#3 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:07 PM

Man, second ep was awful. Talky, all that classic Sorkin machine-gun insider blitz chatter, I can't follow it and I'm a media guy! Can they possibly talk any faster? Are they getting paid by the word??

At least next week it looks like something actually happens. As opposed to this week. Has this show already jumped the Shark?

Well, apparently HBO doesn't think so as they renewed it for a second season.

Yes, it's classic Sorkin. There were people who did not watch "West Wing" because of the sometimes frenetic verbal pace.

With that said, in terms of story arc, this episode combined with the last one demonstrated that the new "retro" approach to the news sometimes will work and sometimes will fail. And it can be because of the unexpected. Last episode, one staffer had a solid connection to the story. This week the other staffer had a connection that should have been avoided.

These two episodes were "the pilot." The problem is if you missed some of the chatter you may have missed something you need to know. Or not.

I'm hoping we're going to get more quiet character interaction. It happened a lot in "West Wing." In an interview with Jane Fonda we learn that:

...[Jane] Fonda plays the recurring role of Leona Lansing, the CEO of the fictional network parent company Atlantic World Media that is, as Fonda explains, somewhere in between Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch.

In the interview Fonda explains:

...Aaron says that it's mostly about the relationships -- and they are fascinating relationships -- about the characters that are in the newsroom. With Emily Mortimer and... well, you know who's in it. It's very interesting. The newsroom, to me -- and I play the head of the whole parent company -- the newsroom is less than three percent of my bottom line. But, because it's the newsroom, it can create a lot of trouble for me. So, I can rattle a lot of cages. But, my dilemma in this first season is what's happening because of what happens to Jeff Daniels in the course of the series. I don't feel like I'm in a position to say, you know, what the core of the story is....

So I have great hopes that the story will develop well.

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

"If you're good enough, they'll talk about you." - Tom Harmon
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#4 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 02 July 2012 - 11:14 PM

They had one episode where "everything fell into place" and the show went well and they one. Now they have had their episode where everything went wrong (different stupid decisions by many people) and they survived. If the plot of the show is the ups and downs of working in a television newsroom we have now seen the ups and down. Now it is time to get into the rhythm.

Relationships are important in today's world ... networking. Your connections via Facebook, Linked In, Twitter and even off the web can get you the next job or lose it - and can help you within the job. Show 1 went well primarily because of one person's connection to two people who gave insight no one could. Show 2 went poorly primarily due to one person's connection to a college friend who wanted to be mean. Sometimes it is who you know.

Will's big error on 2.0 was airing something he had not seen without anyone in the newsroom vetting it for him. He got bad advice and took it - and got burned. One relationship that turned into something bad for the show.

PS: Don't send email to asterisk and watch what pops up via auto-fill. :D

#5 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 01:25 AM

The show clearly has to fight to maintain its neutrality (we know the showrunner and writers are all rabid lefties) but I felt it hugely violated that in one moment. John Gallagher is vetting Alison Pill about the call concerning the AZ law. He plays devil's advocate and at one point which is hard to describe as the "test call" plays out, she delivers the standard knee-jerk lib line about the poor, helpless, wonderful (illegal criminal) aliens and he stops and a huge smile breaks out on his face: she got it right, they agreed, home run, the lib line wins. Now you've got it. Now you can shove that purity of Truth in the face of these AZ lunatic haters!

And at that moment the show lost all credibility. It became a lib shill vehicle, us against them, goodie libs vs. moronic, evil righties. Just for good measure, later they agree to call down some guy from Seattle who is a poor, suffering illegal criminal alien to play up his tragic plight on air. Swell, that's fair.

Yes, we know Will pointedly supports the AZ law (which they touch on for about 2.7 seconds), but you know that over the course of time he will see the light and embrace the lefty zeitgeist. Just as President whatisface on West Wing was always victorious in the end with his progressive policies.

If Sorkin's behind it, rainbow blood will out.

#6 OFFLINE   djlong

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:43 AM

Maruuk, I think you read too much into it.

On both sides of the AZ law issue, there are cogent, rational arguments. What the "good" answer was the cogent, rational liberal side instead of the loony-left arguments. Remember, they were going to interview the architects and enforcers of the law so, presumably, you had the cogent, rational conservative side already there and the exercise was to challenge their position without going to the 'loony left'.

There are arguments that can be made on topics that I vehemently disagree with that are at least intelligent and respectable.

#7 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 03 July 2012 - 05:28 PM

The show clearly has to fight to maintain its neutrality (we know the showrunner and writers are all rabid lefties) but I felt it hugely violated that in one moment....

Yes, we know Will pointedly supports the AZ law (which they touch on for about 2.7 seconds), but you know that over the course of time he will see the light and embrace the lefty zeitgeist. Just as President whatisface on West Wing was always victorious in the end with his progressive policies.

If Sorkin's behind it, rainbow blood will out.

Don't get too upset by Sorkin's viewpoint. As djlong states, there are cogent, rational arguments on both sides.

IMHO Sorkin is the worst kind of "progressive" because really he's a conservative in the sense that he is defending a fictional past as "the time when American's were better because newsmen were better."

And because I fear a huge political argument will stop us from being able to discuss the show, I'm putting the remainder of my opinions about this here in my blog where it can be heatedly debated if someone wants to.

Edited by phrelin, 03 July 2012 - 05:31 PM.
typo

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

"If you're good enough, they'll talk about you." - Tom Harmon
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#8 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 02:17 AM

Of course I agree there are two sides, just that it appeared here that Sorkin did a wink wink/nudge nudge to the audience in that scene basically saying, "We all know what Alison Pill just said was the REAL truth, and those Arizonans are all crazy muthahs!"

That was my point, that it looked like he violated a basic tenet of the show which is not to take sides as the SHOW. Of course individual characters can take sides and argue, but the SHOW can't suddenly adopt a political viewpoint or it's sunk.

That said, next week looks a lot more lively with actual events happening so maybe it won't be so boring, but if they keep up this machine-gun smarty-pants insider chatter only Mensa members will be able to keep track of it.

Word to Sorkin: use different colored pills this week.

#9 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 04:12 PM

That was my point, that it looked like he violated a basic tenet of the show which is not to take sides as the SHOW. Of course individual characters can take sides and argue, but the SHOW can't suddenly adopt a political viewpoint or it's sunk.

Maggie was preparing to interview a conservative person. She needed to present the opposing viewpoint in order to elicit the response that they wanted for the show. "Here is what your opponent is saying, what do you say?" The wink and a nod was for her getting the argument right to where she was prepared to face off against a conservative.

If her job was to pre-interview a liberal she would have had to present the conservative viewpoint to the subject and get that right.

When I was in school and did debates we could flip a coin to decide which side of the issue one took. It didn't matter what our personal viewpoint was on an issue - we had to present the side that we were chosen to represent as effectively as possible. We also had to know the other side as well as ours in order to provide an effective counterpoint.

I believe Maggie was being acknowledged as having the argument right ... that she was ready to work ... not that her argument was the right answer in the debate but that she understood the argument and could present it.

That said, next week looks a lot more lively with actual events happening so maybe it won't be so boring, but if they keep up this machine-gun smarty-pants insider chatter only Mensa members will be able to keep track of it.

That defines a Sorkin show. If it isn't machine-gun smart dialog with long detailed speeches it isn't Sorkin.

#10 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 04 July 2012 - 06:23 PM

I've seen West Wing, Sports Night and Studio 60, and never has the blitz of burnished blather blasted so bloviatingly. He's ramped it up to the point of absurdity. It reminds me of the auctioneer-style disclaimers they stick at the end of after-midnight commercials. The only way they get them to fit is to compress them electronically, and that sounds like what Sorkin is doing. The poor actors must have to mainline meth to keep up the pace.

For me, I miss about 1/3 of this super-speed dialog. That is, the dialog that goes into hyperdrive when characters get excited or intense about an issue and start arguing back and forth at data-dump speed. I never had that problem with the previous shows, though you did have to pay attention for sure.

#11 OFFLINE   phrelin

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 12:30 AM

I've seen West Wing, Sports Night and Studio 60, and never has the blitz of burnished blather blasted so bloviatingly. He's ramped it up to the point of absurdity. It reminds me of the auctioneer-style disclaimers they stick at the end of after-midnight commercials. The only way they get them to fit is to compress them electronically, and that sounds like what Sorkin is doing. The poor actors must have to mainline meth to keep up the pace.

For me, I miss about 1/3 of this super-speed dialog. That is, the dialog that goes into hyperdrive when characters get excited or intense about an issue and start arguing back and forth at data-dump speed. I never had that problem with the previous shows, though you did have to pay attention for sure.

I hate to tell you this, but my mother had the same complaint about "West Wing" and you have to remember I'm old.

Sorkin did it in that show when staffers were walking the halls of the White House intensely debating policy issues or what to have for lunch.

I'm fearful we'll have more of it in this show if each episode is to be about some hot news story. There are slow news days when these characters wouldn't be hyped up. I pray that Sorkin has permitted some of those.

"In a hundred years there'll be a whole new set of people."
"Always poke the bears. They sleep too much for their own good."

"If you're good enough, they'll talk about you." - Tom Harmon
A GEEZER who remembers watching TV in 1951 and was an Echostar customer from 1988 to 2008, now a Dish Network customer.
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#12 OFFLINE   djlong

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:59 AM

I don't know... I remember the same kind of machine-gun dialogue in Sports Night that I see in The Newsroom. Maybe it's just my impression.

#13 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:59 AM

Yeah, it definitely ramps up and down depending. David Milch has his own variation of this as heard in Deadwood and Luck: while not so much a rapid-fire machinegun delivery, it was intentionally written in a bizarre indirect "insider" almost Shakespearean patois all its own, kind of like Yoda-speak with misplaced modifiers and oddly-interjected parentheticals, which could be awfully hard to follow. A grammarian's wet dream!

And ironically, neither style sounds like the way anybody talks in the real world! Any more than David Mamet's weirdo dialog. In which everybody repeats everything twice!

#14 OFFLINE   James Long

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 04:41 PM

The only further comment I can make about Sorkin's pace is that I was younger when I watched his earlier shows. I'm older now and not quite as tuned in to fast speech. I wonder if I would get lost watching the West Wing DVDs? :)

#15 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 05 July 2012 - 07:25 PM

You want some dialog blitzkreig/overkill, turn on any Saturday morning show for about 15 seconds. Then turn it off quick before your brain turns to oatmeal. It sure explains the last few gens! The shows are bad enough, but kiddie commercials today are like turning on 10 channels at the same time and cranking the volume to "11".

#16 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 02:09 AM

This week (I Can Fix You) was much better, this show is finally finding its legs. The relationships/sexual tension sandwiched in with real news and real issues formula is finally starting to gel.

#17 OFFLINE   Sixto

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 07:12 PM

Loved episode 4.
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#18 OFFLINE   codespy

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Posted 19 July 2012 - 07:15 PM

Loved episode 4.


We did too....Wife and I are hooked...at least for now.

Viacom dispute may be assisting with it.

#19 OFFLINE   Maruuk

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 04:11 AM

The irony is, you wish you had this news show in real time every night!

#20 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 25 July 2012 - 05:01 AM

The irony is, you wish you had this news show in real time every night!

No, I don't.

"Newsroom" is not a 'news show', it's a show about producing the news. The story line of interest is behind the scenes, the part we would never see if it were a real news program.

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