Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A mission to civilize The Newsroom's critics

I began watching Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom several months before the premiere of its second season.

Early on in its run, I watched a scene from the show that was said to take place within the journalism school that I was attending at the time. Watching the scene, but knowing I didn't have access to HBO, I tried to push it to the back of my mind. Someday I'd watch it, whenever that might be.

After a few months of deliberation, my excitement for the show inspired me to coax my father into starting a subscription with HBO. Since then, we've never looked back, and we have The Newsroom to thank.

Now, as the show steadily approaches its final episode, I can't help but profess many different feelings.

First and foremost, I'm sad that this show - which I consider one of the best on television - will be departing before its time was up. Unfortunately, due to critics' desire to upend any sociopolitical stance or measure of dignity the show had in the first place, it became incumbent upon Aaron Sorkin to bow out gracefully.

The negativity went so far as to push Sorkin to publicly apologize for the show's handling of recent newsworthy events, defending himself by saying he enjoys writing "romantically and idealistically".

What bothers me about the apology, and why I think it should never have been prompted in the first place, is that this show has - since its very first episode - done precisely what it set out to do. The cast of Newsnight 2.0, the show within a show of The Newsroom, embarked on "a mission to civilize" the news industry by bringing back honest and thorough reporting that features clear and concise storytelling with respectable and reliable sources.

The show did just that by tackling issues that have become increasingly relevant in the modern age of citizen journalism and social media domination of the industry. With the immense speed of news dissemination, meticulous research has taken a back seat to speedy reporting, which often leads to mistakes and misinformation.

Instead of applauding The Newsroom on using the entertaining television medium to bring this issue to light, responses claimed the show was too "preachy".

Which brings me to my next emotional response to the departure of The Newsroom: disappointment.

Looking back at the success of The West Wing, it astonishes me that The Newsroom's Atlantis Cable News team was not met with the same - if not more - respect than the Bartlet administration.

Both shows consisted of very righteous and indignant characters, yet what was perceived as strength in one caused the other to be looked down upon.

Without the press's sensitivity to this show's handling of recent newsworthy events, perhaps The Newsroom could've lived on for another several years. Its content certainly maintained a strong viewership even despite some unpleasant reviews, and even the network seemed enthusiastic about keeping it on the air.

Unfortunately, due to other commitments and likely due to the weekly battering of his very well-researched and well-written scripts, Aaron Sorkin decided to end the show by knocking out six amazing final episodes, constituting a third season of the show.

The most bittersweet part of all of this has been the fantastic final flourish of the third season of The Newsroom. Each episode has maintained the original premise of holding journalists to a higher standard, yet also continued the previous seasons' clever storytelling, biting and witty dialogue, and in-depth character development.

As the show winded down, the stakes have grown higher and higher and the show has lived up to - if not thoroughly exceeded - expectations. Having watched this show for the majority of its run at this point, I feel like I know its characters. They have become old friends to me. In just 24 episodes to date, I've begun to understand their quirks and anticipate their choices. I've come to love them and respect them and want the very best for them, and that's more than I can say of any other show that has existed for such a short time (save Pushing Daisies, perhaps, but that's another story entirely).

Yet even in the throes of this amazingly developed and beautifully impassioned show's final hours, critics have taken it upon themselves to tear it down once again for its method of handling a very relevant issue - sexual assault on college campuses.

Having believed personally that both sides of the situation were presented well - one firmly on the side of victims and the other on the side of "innocent until proven guilty" - I did not take issue with the episode. I cannot even fathom how it could've been handled in a more authentic way.

And as we exit what I consider to be one of the most powerful episodes of The Newsroom, I'm upset that the only aspect of the show getting coverage is this one small part of a much bigger and more complex episode.

What I saw come out of the penultimate episode of The Newsroom was not controversy, but a set of very poignant moments for almost every character on the show. By the end of the episode, I found myself impassioned as well as in tears, convinced that the emotional roller coaster I was on involved more than fictional friends.

Which leaves me at what I believe to be the takeaway of The Newsroom: pride.

This was a show that succeeded in doing exactly what it intended to do. It created a set of decent and relatable characters who were as smart and talented as they were virtuous, and equally as complicated.

The stories may have occasionally inspired heated debate, but if anything that is a testament to the show's quality. If it did not address real issues in clever and radical ways, then it wouldn't inspire any sort of dialogue. But The Newsroom did just that - it made its viewers think.

Moving on from the fictional world of ACN, I'm sorry to have to look back and see any amount of public sourness at what I think is one of the most groundbreaking and spectacular shows of the last ten years.

As a recent graduate of journalism school, I've found it very difficult to embrace the practices of many modern day news agencies. The Newsroom was one of the few shows that made me feel confident about my profession. It renewed my pride in journalism in a way that real life news programs rarely have.

So as a final farewell to The Newsroom, its writers, its production staff, its cast and the rest of its crew - I'd really like to extend my ardent appreciation and an honest Thank You. Despite its ending, The Newsroom will live on to civilize and inspire through the people who watched and embraced its fearless appraisal of the very industry it aimed to expose. From now on, we are ACN.

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