Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In Love with The Newsroom

When I was growing up, the saying, "There but for the grace of God go I," was a humbling phrase. My mother said it to me as a reminder that good fortune can come and go in a heartbeat. It was a motto indicating that we are, as a people, one and the same. Clothes and glitter do not make humanity.

Today, "There but for the grace of God go I" is a statement of hubris, a phrase of arrogance. It is used to make poor people feel bad, to indicate that they have done something wrong - that they are inherently "less than" because they do not have that grace of God.

Poor people do not glitter when they walk. But rich people do, and in today's world of emotional, gut-wrenching vileness, that glitter is all that matters.

This difference in thinking is but one of the many themes of The Newsroom, a show on HBO.

This is a show that has left me crying at the end of 9 out of the 10 episodes in its first season.

My husband says I cry because I am, after all, a news woman at heart. The show depicts that adrenaline that occurs when a story hits, the heat of the chase for information, the action that takes place behind the scenes as news unfolds. I miss that and it is worthy of tears.

But he is not entirely right. That is not the only reason this show makes me cry. The truths of this show, even though these truths are set in a fictional narrative, are what make me cry.

A friend on Facebook noted that she liked the show, and one of her friends called it "a commie show." That is, of course, the worst insult one can hurl in the United States, to call something "communist" or "socialist."

It is telling that truth is now labeled communist in the United States - lies, I guess, are the American way. Truth has become a bad thing, something to eschew, something bad. But this show is pointing out the true evils that have assailed this nation.

The Newsroom takes aim at the Tea Party, and rightly so, but there are also jabs at the other parties (Republicans and Democrats),the political process in general, and corporate rule. The show points out that this is a nation that is so self-involved and gorged on its own emotional bloat that intelligence has shoved itself into high gear and maneuvered clear off of this planet.

This is what makes me cry, this acknowledgement that as a nation we are now running on fetid emotions and not using the rational, logical selves that once gave us hope of a great country.

It is hard to watch what you love be destroyed, to see evil take over. Evil has usurped the airwaves in the form of 24-hour disingenuous Meet the Press set-ups, corrupted our political process, eaten our discourse and turned us all into partisan ninnies who can barely think our way past tomorrow's breakfast. God forbid we actually set up and solve problems.

The Newsroom works for me because it shows me what could be. It shows what could happen if the media once again became The Fourth Estate, the watchdog of the nation, instead of its lapdog. In a recent episode, The Newroom explains what a real presidential debate should look like, and it cuts deeply because it acknowledges that what we see today is not news.

What we see today is not news. I'm repeating that because it is important. What we see today is entertainment. And there is a huge difference. News tells us what a presidential candidate actually believes and points out stupid when it sees it. Entertainment makes light of real concerns and turns our attention to that kitty cat over at the side of the political forum.

Today we see nothing but kitty cats on all of the news channels.

The fictional show about real news points out that we are seeing kitty cats, and then turns its attention to the real news. You know, the stories of voter disenfranchisement and oil spills. Stuff that really matters.

The Newsroom is also human, and it shows the dichotomy that exists for all journalists - we are human and part of the story even as we try to sift facts and tell it right. That the latter part of the job has been lost (the telling it right) is the tragedy.

Will McAvoy is the news anchor for a show produced by Atlantis Cable News (ACN). His executive producer is MacKinzie McHale. She is also his former girlfriend.

The female characters on the show have been bashed by critics as being hysterical and flat, among other things, but I like them. I consider myself a feminist but I do not see these female characters as derisive or downplaying women or their roles in either the lives of the men or in the media.

Romance is a big thing on this show, too. We have the Will/Mac (and will they or won't they get back together) and we have a Jim/Maggie/Don/Lisa story, along with a new one with Sloan tossed in there for good measure.

The romance is important because it humanizes these people. News people are not little automatons who run around reporting the news. They have lives, feelings, and concerns.

There is a lot in this show to watch. I know some will find it partisan, that it is attacking one side over the other, but I think it it attacking a process, not a side. It is attacking a process that has taken over and destroyed this country. I'm afraid we're too far gone to be saved.

I have watched many of the episodes more than once, and it is quite nuanced. There is much to think about.

Since it is a show that makes you think, I suppose that is why the ratings are not as high as they should be. God forbid we actually think about something here.

And it is *not* a commie show.

Here are some articles about the show:

From The Christian Science Monitor: The Newsroom: Looking Back on Season One

From The Daily Kos: The Newsroom Airs the News Program We've Been Waiting For

A last show discussion: The Newroom finale sets up Season 2 with new stakes and all the greatest fools

The Newsroom Concludes Season with More Tea Party Bashing: Calls Them ‘American Taliban’

The Newsroom finale, Will rises from the ashes

If you're interested, do a search. There are many others. Here's the Wikipedia link if you want that kind of information.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Sounds like an interesting show that I'd like. If I ever get moved and get a TV with more than 1 channel, I'll give it a look!
    Thanks for the well laid out post.... You're so right our nightly tv news especially is pure entertainment and not worth the 30 minutes it takes to watch.

  2. I watch the show too...it reminds me of the days when I worked in the newsroom at ABC News, sorta. Still waiting for them to show the importance of the video editors! If there was less "soap opera" to the show, I'd probably enjoy it more. Since Peter Jennings died from lung cancer in "real life" I suspect they're going to have Will's smoking affect him somehow.

  3. Absolutely love this post, Anita... Commie? Really? Jeez, some people are such asses.

  4. Not having cable I am unfamiliar with this show, but sounds like one I might like.

  5. I'll watch out for it. Thanks for the recommendation.

  6. I use the term, "There but for..." a lot. I've never thought of it as you explain it though. I always use it to think that it could be me in any number of painful circumstances except that God's grace has spared me. For example, why is it not me starving in Ethiopia?, why do I have a soft pillow at night while others are homeless?, why am I not addicted to drugs?, etc.
    It makes me realize that I have done nothing to 'deserve' all the good things I have while others have done nothing bad to 'deserve' their lot. It's by God's grace that we are where and who we are. This expression keeps me humble and reminds me never to think too much of myself because that could be me walking in that other person's shoes. It also serves as part of a foundation for helping those more in need than ourselves.
    Perhaps the expression has taken on a negative connotation somewhere along the way that I am unaware of.

  7. So well written, Anita!! I really like this show too.

  8. I wish more people would think like Leonora except blaming others for being poor or gay or black. Not that gay or black is bad like poor is, but they have a harder time like poor does.

    I have never heard of this show but I will look for it. HBO is doing some pretty good stuff. Do you watch Bill Maher?


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