Aaron Sorkin intended his new show “Newsroom” to be a romantic and idealistic reimagination of the news. Unlike the typical modern news show which lowers its content standards to draw eyeballs to the screen, “Newsroom” purports to show what happens when news producers place priority on informing their viewers.
So what does informative news look like according to Sorkin? After the season’s third episode, we already have a good idea. Informative news has much more international news coverage. It plays down human interest stories. It plays down sensational events in favor of those with less appeal but more importance. It seeks to report facts without bias, and without regard to whether they favor one political party over another. Which of course makes it anti-Republican and inimical to the Tea Party.
But wait… Doesn’t this sort of coverage already exist? Sorkin is more or less describing how the news on PBS differs from other broadcast or cable news shows. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer fits rather neatly with Sorkin’s notion of what a news show should be. It stresses international events and downplays the merely sensational. It even provokes the same sort of blowback from right wing politicians. And it (unsurprisingly) happens to be on public television, where one can run a news program without being strictly beholden to the profit motive.
So Sorkin isn’t really reimagining anything. He’s essentially just transferring PBS news to a major broadcast network. This changes what the show is all about. Sorkin isn’t romanticizing the news so much as he is scolding the American public over its news preferences. If we were all serious citizens, we’d demand that all news networks operate just like PBS and NPR…
In fairness, there are still meaty intellectual points underlying the show. The profit motive can be corrosive to social duty in certain settings, and the world would be a better place if opportunism were more constrained by morality. Still, at its heart the show is a boilerplate liberal scold of corporate media.10 July 2012 by caseyzak