I don’t own a television. To be honest, I haven’t for years and I don’t miss it. It might be because I’m a bit of an early adopter when it comes to technology, but the “TV” that I watch I do so online and with iTunes with my computer. In this way I have to actively seek out shows to watch. This might mean that I miss most of the programs that others are watching, but it saves me time, which I use for work, running, and writing.
However, this past week a friend posted a clip from a new show “The Newsroom” on his Facebook profile and I was very impressed. The clip is entitled “Why America is not the best country in the world” and it’s brilliantly put together. This clip had me look up the program and watch what the show’s producer Aaron Sorkin has put together.
From the first two episodes I believe the show will track real life news stories starting with the sinking of the Deep SeaHorizon oil platform in March of 2010. The fictitious news channel AON has America’s most liked newsperson, Will McAvoy, and the station’s owner has brought back an idealist producer, MacKenzie McHale, who wants to present Americans with important information for making democratic decisions. In short, this fictitious news program is what John Stewart has been calling for on his satirical evening news program, “The Daily Show,” for years.
Kudos to the writers of “The Newsroom” for their detailed research in order to providing a balanced view on past events. This program is a calling to America and other countries, that the news and the press have a duty to present well founded and balanced stories and arguments. Today though sensationalism and entertainment seem to be more of the agenda for news stations that providing the critical information required for a functioning democracy.
The question remains though, whether entertainment (drama / art) can indeed spur on a change in people’s involvement with real life political debate founded on more than ideology and opinion, but rather on logical and factual argumentation aimed at longterm prosperity. While this program should force the issue onto the table, and hopefully inspire a news agency to take on the challenge of delivering the news the way it ought to be, I believe many viewers hoping for this change will be disappointed and others will mistake the news in the show for reality and forget about what is actually happening.
The caveat here is that, just like with “The Daily Show,” even if the information presented is based in reality and researched, it is not the duty of these shows to present the news. They are supposed to call citizens to action to demand reliable, fair, balanced news to help people to be active, informed citizens in their respective democracies.
The news needs to come from respectable sources, who achieve a special and honorable status with a proven track record of providing the public with the informed, balanced, and important information that does not dictate how people should think, but gives them the information required for them to logically evaluate situations and make decisions. In other words, the news needs to present the WHO, WHERE, WHY, WHAT, WHEN, and HOW of every story. The more detail the WHY gets via founded and transparent facts and figures, the more reliable that news source will become.
For my part, I’m looking forward to future episodes of “The Newsroom,” but more importantly I hope it does what Paul Krugman in his latest book, End this Depression Now, hopes for: to inspire people to become politically active and demand change.
The Newsroom airs Sunday evenings on HBO and stars: Jeff Daniels, Emily Mortimer, Sam Waterston, Olivia Munn, and Dev Patel