July 25, 2013
The Newsroom Isn’t Like A Real Newsroom
Among the “can’t miss” shows for this reporter this summer is HBO’s The Newsroom. It isn’t because this is good TV – it isn’t. It isn’t because this is even a decent TV show – it really isn’t. No, this is the kind of guilty pleasure that is up there with Storage Wars and Hardcore Pawn that I watch because it is just such bad TV.
But unlike those ‘not really real reality TV’ shows that I can handle in the smallest doses, The Newsroom is a big budget drama that tries to suggest this is how a TV journalist works. For the record, I’m a veteran of a real newsroom, and worked at FoxNews.com for two and a half years.
In addition, I’ve been in plenty of other newsrooms in one capacity or another over the years, and have many colleagues that work even to this day in newsrooms. The fact is, that Adam Sorkin’s The Newsroom isn’t really what a newsroom is like.
Sorkin is no stranger to trying to present the world of TV from behind the scenes. So, this is familiar territory after Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
First, all these shows have several things in common: the banter (I’ll get to that in a second), the archetype characters and the insane depiction of these seeming workaholic characters.
Sorkin has his style of writing dialog. While Quentin Tarantino and David Mamet write dialog that you either love or loathe every second of, Sorkin has dialog that flows that even when you hate it you can’t hate it too much.
CNN’s Jake Tapper summed it up pretty well:
SCENE: INTERIOR. TNR Office, Washington, D.C.
EDITOR: Butwhatabout the thing?
EDITOR: ThatSORKINthing whentwo charactersarewalkingdownahallway oronthestreet and thedialogue EXPLODESlikePOPCORN fastandsalty and-it’s … stylizedandfun.
TAPPER: Oh. THATthing.
EDITOR: Yes. Thething.
No one talks that way in a newsroom.
The Archetype Characters
In the Sorkinverse of the media, there are generally those want-to-change the world types. When you go into journalism or broadcasting, most professors will emphasize you shouldn’t do it to get rich, become famous or change the world. Apparently Sorkin didn’t get that memo, as his characters often look out not only to be in the story, but often to change the world.
This is certainly the case in The Newsroom.
Moreover, all three of his TV shows about TV shows feature hardworking individuals who must battle the evil (and often conservative) executives. Of course, the TV producers are the smartest people in the room, at least certainly than those with the corner offices. It is enough to make one wonder how Sorkin gets his shows on the air; but could explain why the former two didn’t last all that long.
And then about those characters; any viewer will notice they are in at the crack of dawn, there until midnight and more often than not in a bar or otherwise hanging out together. Sorkin may or may not be the hardest working show runner in Hollywood, but at real newsrooms there are shifts.
Real journalists, even those who are truly dedicated to the craft, don’t put in 18 hour days every day of the week. There are times – election night or during a tragedy – when long shifts occur, but at the end of the day people go home. OK, so this doesn’t make for good TV, but depicting characters that come in at 6am and work until midnight isn’t exactly realistic.
The other thing is that unlike other work place dramas or comedies, where does everyone like each other so much? With the exception of the corporate executives, these characters typically act like a family. There is hardly this much in Star Trek, where there is seldom any strife! In real newsrooms there are egos, there are slackers and there are those (who like William Hurt in Broadcast News) get by on their looks and ability to read well!
In other words, The Newsroom is no more an accurate depiction of a real TV newsroom than NewsRadio depicted the workings of a news radio station. That said, for me The Newsroom is a guilty pleasure, but personally I like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip more. It just had that thing, yeah that behindthescenesthing. Of course, with Sorkin’s track record let’s see if this thing can keep going.
Image Credit: HBO / JeffDaniels.com