The Newsroom

What's wrong with the quality of political debate today? A lot of the problem lies with the politicians of course but we can hardly expect them to make it easy. No, we think the problem lies with the journalists. We celebrate 'challenging' interviewers like Jeremy Paxman and John Humphreys, but have you given much though to what they actually achieve? One of JP's most celebrated interviews was with Michael Howard, at the time conservative home secretary. Howard was being evasive, so Jeremy Paxman just kept asking the same question over twenty times and got the same reply.

What a waste of precious interview time with the third most powerful figure in the UK Government.

We see similar problems across the media where the entire interview is designed to try to catch the politician out in some trivial way, rather than elicit actual facts and engage in real debate. The objective seems to be to score points - essentially it's all about the confrontation and not the topic.

OK, so what's this got to do with The newsroom you ask?

The Newsroom has the journalists that we wish we had in real life.

They are incredibly bright and well informed, specialise to an enormous degree so they really know their topic, study history and understand how that shapes the present, and have enormous integrity and absolutely will not run a story until they are very certain it is true - they were nearly last with the BP spill in the Gulf because they were determined to triple check their sources.

Watching the first episode in series one was enthralling. This is a programme where the quality of the dialogue is exceptional, with fast, exciting, challenging and well-informed debates. The stories they cover are the real ones: The BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Tea Party, the uprising in Egypt and American elections and occupy Wall Street (the US companion to the UK movement 'Occupy London').

The show is set around a late night evening news programme where the anchor, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), is a lawyer turned interviewer who is determined to run a real news show and not a gossip show. This frequently leads him into disputes with the owner of the channel (played by Jane Fonda) who not only wants a populist show to increase audience figures but who also has strong political affiliations. The supporting cast is very strong, and it's probably unfair to describe them as that. This is a show with eight very strong regular characters who are all critical to the success of this great show. The background stories of life and love are there as you might expect, but only occasionally do these take central stage. The evening show and the stories they investigate are at the forefront.

Although the central theme is producing an evening broadcast, they manage to avoid making the shows predictable. Yes, there is normally an interview by Will. Yes, there is normally a breaking story that needs to be verified. Yes, there is normally a dispute with management. But for all that each episode seems fresh and different. In one of our favourite episodes the team want to hold a debate between the candidates but want to ask them real, challenging questions. When one of our politicians says 'This policy is eroding my civil rights' the interview will say 'name three rights that you have lost'. Of course they can't - in the same way that here in the UK we talk of loss of rights to Europe and no-one ever says 'name one'. The show doesn't go ahead because none of the political parties will agree to the this style of questioning, They just want a platform.

In a more recent episode a team of journalists are following a candidate on the tour bus, being fed sound-bites and official statements but never being able to get real answers or even speak directly to the candidate. It makes a mockery of our free press and shows how far we have come from being truly democratic.

We'll say again what makes this show particularly good is the dialogue. Image a dinner party with the sharpest, smartest, best informed guests. Imagine the conversation over dinner when real political debate begins. Now sit and watch it on The Newsroom.

Take note John, Jeremy & Nick - this is how it should be done.

Cast

Sam Waterston as Charlie Skinner : Emily Mortimer as MacKenzie McHale : Dev Patel as Neal Sampat : Olivia Munn as Sloan Sabbith

John Gallagher Jnr as Jim Harper : Alison Pill as Maggie Jordan : Thomas Sadoski as Don Keefer : Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy


Sam Waterston Emily Mortimer Dev Patel Olivia Munn John Gallagher Alison Pill Thomas Sadoski Jeff Daniels
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