Customer Review

184 of 196 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It felt like being back at CNN, November 24, 2012
This review is from: The Newsroom: Season 1 (DVD)
Much has already been said about the show's quality as a TV drama, the great acting and inspired writing. I want to focus on something else.

Having spent more than two decades at CNN Center in Atlanta, until two years ago, as a writer and producer, the show is a brilliant success in conveying what it feels like to be in a newsroom like that, especially when there is breaking news.

In particular, the episode with the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford was absolutely true to life. Another reviewer criticized the dilema the team felt as other networks were reporting that she was dead and they were under pressure from network executives not to fall behind on the story. At the climactic moment, the anchor Will McAvoy makes the call on air and offers only the information about the shooting: "Here's what we know so far..." Which, of course, we know to have been the right call.

The factual context is right. NPR did report that Gifford had been killed; CNN, among others, repeated the misinformation, albeit attributing the report to NPR.

I don't know exactly what happened around Congresswoman Gifford's shooting, it was on a Saturday and I was working M-F, but I was there in the CNN Headline News newsroom in a similar situation: we came within seconds of airing a false report that the first president Bush had died during a visit to Japan in 1992 (where he had taken ill the night before, throwing up on the Japanese Prime Minister).

How close? The anchor --Chuck Roberts, I think it was--, said on the air "We have some very tragic news about president Bush" and you can hear in the background the supervising producer shouting "No, No, No" and then the anchor saying no, we don't have that, followed by something very close to "Here's what we know so far. President Bush fell ill last night ..." and so on.

At that time CNN set up a much more stringent system for confirming information and vetting what got on the air. Over the years, the formalities have remained ... but not the rigor. The argument is that it is already out there, all over the Internet. But you'd think a CNN would see as its job to run the reports through a fact-checking wringer and then tell its viewers the results.

The sets are absolutely true to life, not just the newsroom but also the studio and control room. I told my son as we were watching one episode that it looked like it had been filmed in the CNN International control room. Of course, this is a TV drama not a documentary, which means the writers take any number of shortcuts to telescope events into an episode's time frame and to present conflicts and issues sharply. But that is what art is supposed to do: to illuminate by selectively highlighting and focusing. I think they have done a wonderful job of distilling the life and feel of a newsroom.

And there's something else.

My favorite definition of journalism is that journalism is making public something that someone doesn't want to come out. Everything else is propagabda.

My generation of journalists had some great contemporary role models as we were learning out craft in the reporting around the Pentagon Papers and then Watergate (not just the presidential "dirty tricks" but everything that came to light as a result, from CIA financing of political campaigns in other countries and assassination plots against Fidel Castro).

Unfortunately, today it seems those sorts of models can only be found in fiction.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 17, 2013 1:35:25 PM PST
Thank You for an intelligent review from an EXPERIENCED person..I think what you have said is true about reporting being TRUE, not sensational, a rarity. Ratings and media owners pushing their agenda on the public is NOT reporting..it is fantasy and mind control. It has severely divided our country and is totally NOT what a democracy is based on. Truth has been missing for the past 20 years in politics and given us three TOTALLY inexperienced men in the White House. We are in dire trouble and maybe Sorkin's shaking it up a bit will make people at least THINK.."DEMOCRACY IS NOT EASY..you have to want it bad".. a Sorkin quote. CORRECT. I hope he can reach more than HBO. Sorkin may be many things we know nothing about...what is evident is he is a masterful writer and puts a NEW light on ENTERTAINMENT.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 17, 2013 4:21:43 PM PST
I recognized the quote immediately. I love The American President but I hadn't realized until seeing your comment that Sorkin had written that movie also.

Posted on Jul 19, 2013 4:07:40 AM PDT
Puzzled says:
Really interesting review of a show I love - thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 20, 2013 11:10:37 AM PDT
OMG. The American President is one of my favorite movies - for the characters and their dialogue. I never noticed that Aaron Sorkin wrote that, but it makes a lot of sense now. Thanks for letting me know. I'll look for the writers from now on.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2013 9:34:33 PM PST
Ricardo95 says:
excellent post/comment, Nancy. Very informative and educational. The show touched on reality , for me personally. I still feel journalism is dying and in fact, as the show states, we pick our news and the truth we choose to hear by the channel we select. I read many news org.s and the internet provided avenues for information, like BBC, Al Jazeera, Israeli Post, and local papers online. The papers have fallen victim. Here in NYC many top writers have been dropped and the journalism is weak and very biased.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 21, 2013 9:58:22 PM PST
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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