Aaron Sorkin targets journalism in "The Newsroom"

Thu Jun 21, 2012 5:30pm EDT
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By Christine Kearney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. television news has become as predictably sensational as reality shows, while journalism in general is failing democracy and its crucial role in intelligently informing the public.

That's the message behind a reimagining of what the news could and should be as shown in writer Aaron Sorkin's idealistic new show, "The Newsroom," which premieres on cable channel HBO on Sunday.

Just as Sorkin's "The West Wing" romanticized Washington politics, "The Newsroom" finds optimism in the very industry whose flaws it seeks to expose.

It stars Jeff Daniels as a cynical, middle-aged TV anchorman who shoots for high ratings through pleasing stories before teaming up with his producer ex-girlfriend, played by Emily Mortimer. Together they shake up his nightly news show in an attempt at "reclaiming the Fourth Estate. Reclaiming journalism as an honorable profession."

Mortimer's character informs the young staff members in an early episode that: "We don't do good television, we do the news," while Daniels apologizes on air for recent wrongdoings including miscalculating election results, hyping up terror threats and failing to keep watch on the financial industry.

Driving home what he sees as journalism's current failures, Sorkin uses real news events in his story lines to highlight failings of how events were actually covered. They include taking too long to recognize the huge environmental disaster of the 2010 BP oil spill and exaggerating the 2010 Times Square bomb threat.

"Everything is hyped up to such a loud volume, because they are not doing the news anymore, they are doing reality TV. And they badly want to get you involved with the ongoing story of Casey Anthony or the ongoing story of this person who was mean to that person," Sorkin told Reuters in an interview.

News shows, he added, "have, in a lot of cases, all but abdicated their responsibility to a democracy to inform the electorate."   Continued...

Creator and executive producer Aaron Sorkin and actress Kristin Davis pose at the premiere of the HBO television series "The Newsroom" at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles, California June 20, 2012. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni