Today in service journalism: I watched HBO's Aaron Sorkin-created show about a fictional cable news program, The Newsroom. And then I participated in one of the post-show chats that Dave Weigel has been hosting at Slate. Here's an excerpt:
PS: Do you get the impression that this plotline, in which our intrepid News Night team gets a Big Story very, very wrong, is an attempt to respond to criticism of the show's first season?
DW: Insofar as it's a plotline that runs through the season and creates something resembling tension?
PS: That, yes. But also in the sense that the first season, which I only saw snippets of, was perceived as very smug? This gives Sorkin a chance to take his characters down a peg. (Sort of.)
DW: As a schlocky moral lesson, it's pretty good, and having been fitted with every kind of black hat this season, it was good to see Jerry Dantana get smacked down.
Yes, only to be saved when Jane Fonda suddenly believes in the power of their journalism. She hated it when they pissed off Republicans with opinion, but she'll live with it when they blow a story. Perhaps it's because her news team is now so chastened that they won't possibly rebuff her. But as a drama—as someone who reviews a lot of movies, and knows how they are structured—what did you make of the Genoa payoff?
PS: I thought the episode worked better as drama than many of the episodes this season, mostly because it was focused on Genoa. Romantic entanglements and yesterday's news were generally back-burned, except for a Benghazi sequence intercut with a Genoa interview session at the end. The show is at its best when it's telling a story with meaningful stakes rather than offering Life Lessons, and we got more of that here than in previous episodes.
DW: As pompous as it can be/always is, I agree—I'd much rather watch Sorkin in "lecturing the audience" mode than in "teaching those women a lesson" mode.
PS: But he so obviously enjoys imparting lessons to Internet Girls everywhere. Part of what bugs me about the show is that it often feels like a one-man show, in which Sorkin is playing all the parts. This plot-heavy episode felt a little less like that than usual. What did you think of the way to Genoa story came apart? I can't decide whether it felt sort of real—a cascading series of unlikely failures—or totally contrived.