The Relevance of The Newsroom and Why You Should Watch It

At the beginning of this year, I was looking for a new show to watch. I’m sure most people can relate to watching an inordinate amount of tv this past year while being stuck in the house. However, after bingeing so many shows, it seemed like I ran out of things to watch. I searched and searched and I finally found the show I was looking for: The Newsroom.


Created by Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote The West Wing, A Few Good Men, and The Social Network just to name a few. The HBO show follows the backstage aspect of News Night, a primetime show on a cable news network. It starts off with the host of the show, Will McAvoy, in the midst of a scandal after he went off on a tirade against a Northwestern student. As his ratings plummet, the whole nature of the show within the show changes within the first episode. They are now dedicated to reporting genuine, investigative, important news that is not just about the ratings.


Nowadays, a lot of people want to watch shows that comment on social justice issues. There is a multitude of shows aimed towards teenagers and young adults that attempt to draw attention to important issues such as racism and gender equality. However, each time they try, it seems to fall flat. The Newsroom calls attention to political issues, but with greater nuance and fantastic writing and acting. 


The biggest difference between The Newsroom and most other tv shows is that they report on events that actually happened. In the first season alone, they covered Deepwater Horizon, the shooting of Gabby Giffords, and the raid that killed Osama Bin-Laden. Written a few years after each of these events occurred, Sorkin had the advantage of hindsight on how they should have been reported. With the choice to cover real-life events, the show makes its political stance clear by changing the reporting to how it should have been covered. For example, when Gabby Giffords was shot, most news networks reported that she died based on an NPR report. However, the now-former representative is still alive today. The News Night crew decided not to call it even if it risked the chance of viewers turning the channel and losing the ratings. 


While they cover different stories, the main theme of the show is abundantly clear. The way that network news now needs to be changed. One of the main plot points of the first season is that the changes made to the show by new executive producer, Mackenzie McHale, causes monetary and congressional trouble for the network. Their jobs are threatened as Will turns away from his politically neutral broadcast into a show that does deep dives into problems on both sides of the aisle. In doing so, their parent company, Atlantis World Media, loses congressional support for other aspects of their business. The Newsroom points out that the news should not be a for-profit business because it affects the reporter’s ability to communicate what the people need to know. Instead, we are stuck with a business where the people decide what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.


Aaron Sorkin always has a lot to say. His own political views always come into play when writing his more politically motivated stories. In The West Wing, the democratic Bartlet White House always had an eloquently written monologue about the dangers of guns or why corporations should have a limit on how much they donate to a campaign. In that sense, The Newsroom is not much different. The first season sometimes feels like a lecture about why the news should be changed. However, if you ignore the slight arrogance and condescension, the show’s message will make you think about the news in a different light and how you consume the news yourself. Is it really important to spend fifteen minutes on Ted Cruz going to Cancun in the middle of a snowstorm? Why not talk about the effects on the people of Texas? I’m just saying. 

In these times, seven years after the show ended, the relevance of The Newsroom becomes clear within the first three episodes. The news should not be a biased business. The center of the political spectrum is facts. We need news coverage that is willing to report the ugly facts of all stories without a political agenda. We need someone to disprove all the lies that politicians have been telling us. We need people willing to have guests on their shows that disagree with them. We need to be having more significant conversations about what is going on in this country. Without all of that, we just become an uninformed electorate that will continue to make the wrong choices. The Newsroom allows us to figure out what we need from our major media outlets, and why we need to change the nature of our news system.