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Commentary: Season 1 of HBO’s ‘The Newsroom’ offers commentary on state of modern journalism

Courtesy of HBO

Sometimes, I wish “The Newsroom’s” Atlantis Cable News network was real.

In between those moments, though, I know that can never be the case.

For some, creator Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama is an idealistic call to better journalism, a triumphant rallying cry for changing the way the industry does business.

To others, the show is all-too-naïve and arguably even ignorant and overly glamorous about the framework in which journalists are used to working in.

Make no mistake about it: Sorkin’s series is a commentary on the state of modern journalism – specifically, it aims to take on the condition of the art in its broadcast form.

Its anchor, the gruff, boorish and brash Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) treats his primetime spot “Newsnight” more as a courtroom than a set filled with cameras and bright studio lights.

And in McAvoy’s world, he’s the judge.

The greatest facet of “The Newsroom” is its knack to question and challenge the status-quo of journalism and that’s seen in almost all 10 episodes of the show’s first season, which premiered in June.

From the onset, McAvoy’s executive producer (and ex-girlfriend) MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) challenges the anchor to step outside of the box and break away from the industry-driven meta-narrative of what news is and why it’s important.

Instead of rehashing the storylines of “Newsnight’s” competitors, McHale and, consequently, McAvoy are determined to cover the news in what they deem “the right way,” though they – and their staff – run into inevitable bumps of adversity along the way.

In Sorkin’s creation, “Newsnight” is a shining ray of light in an otherwise fallen world of journalism.

Such a stance is beyond admirable.

While “The Newsroom” is filled with cringe-worthy dialogue and excessively dramatic, corny moments, the central message of the show certainly is worth a second, third and fourth look.

I won’t – frankly, I can’t – dig too deep into analyzing and evaluating the theatrical value of the show because I’m not qualified to do so.

I don’t claim to be a movie or television critic and to proclaim so otherwise would be a disservice to a show that’s been welcomed in a bipolar manner.

As a student-journalist, though, “The Newsroom” makes me think about the direction in which the field is moving and whether or not such a prospect scares me – regardless of how much I agree with what the show has to offer after the conclusion of its first season Sunday.

It also serves as a clear reminder that journalism’s trajectory can be altered, despite how far-fetched and maligned an objective might be.

Perhaps most fascinating is how Sorkin and his characters confront the idea of what news actually is and, more explicitly, how they go about doing it.

Basic journalism suggests there are always two sides to every story.

To McAvoy and McHale, however, that traditionally foundational block of reporting is seen as a barrier to better journalism.

For them, there might be just one side to a story or as many as four.

Example: McAvoy and McHale repeatedly use their block of time to blast the conservative grass-root “Tea Party” organization while other outlets level exhaustive efforts in covering things such as the Casey Anthony trial or Anthony Weiner’s sexting scandal.

“The Newsroom” takes a decisive, fresh standpoint on what real journalism is and what it isn’t.

Contesting the usual circumstances of what journalism is isn’t necessarily a novel idea, but Sorkin’s opposition to the often-maligned modern media machine is remarkably encouraging.

“The Newsroom” argues that newsmen and newswomen need to do better – that they can do better.

And despite the skepticism of some, who knows? Maybe they really can.

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