'The Newsroom' encourages conversation about news, media

After the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama went to Jeff Daniels for his role as Will McAvoy in HBO’s "The Newsroom," many were unhappy and took to the Internet to say so. Since its premiere on the silver screen, "The Newsroom" has been plagued with criticism, somewhat marring writer and producer Aaron Sorkin’s triumphant return to television.

"The Newsroom" and Sorkin have taken a lot of flak for being preachy, over-the-top and idealistically liberal, while portraying an almost too-perfect version of coverage of real-world events.

Season one mainly focused on one idea, that "America is not the greatest country in the world."

McAvoy's character comes away from his characteristic middle-of-the-road news coverage to take a critical eye on many hot-button issues Americans grapple with every day: the financial crisis, the Tea Party’s incorporation into the Republican base and the constant gridlock and lack of compromise. Encouraged by his newscast's executive producer, Will begins to tear at the ideological underpinnings of American exceptionalism. He issues a wake-up call to his fellow members of the press, arguing that the American public deserves to have news grounded in fact and reported without an agenda.

Although he starts off being cynical, Daniels's McAvoy finds a silver lining in his pursuit of civility and dialogue.

Season two marks a departure from the original premise, with the advent of the fictional "Genoa" storyline inspired by an all-too-real Operation Tailwind fiasco, when CNN retracted a story alleging the use of nerve gas by U.S. forces. The show continues to examine the media and build on the arguments of season one.

We are left with a happy ending, as well as the sense there is work to be done. McAvoy's fictional "News Night" has picked itself up, but his "mission to civilize" is far from over.

"The Newsroom" has become News Night 2.0, a show that is unafraid to get into complicated issues and that stirs reactions from both political parties that almost mirror the fictional reality. As with Sorkin's wildly successful "The West Wing" about a Democratic president and his administration, liberals love seeing their ideology represented onscreen, but Sorkin does not brush the flaws of the liberal party under a rug.

Many Republicans and conservatives find the show's presentation of the issues to be dead wrong, or at least believe Sorkin completely places the Democrats in a better light. However, these detractors fail to realize the main character and show’s hero considers himself to be a Republican.

"Newsroom" is idealistic and liberal-leaning, but it's not oblivious or completely one-sided.

If anything, the shows stirs up a conversation between the audience and creator about substantial issues that should be at the forefront of the American conscience. These issues are finding their way into the limelight in the form of a fictional reality, just a few steps away from our own.

This "mission to civilize" is slow, but we are in it for the long haul — and season three.

Back to you, Will.

 

Reach the columnist at rasimpso@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @BeccaSimpson

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