TVRA 1165 – Mass Media Archive

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S1E2, News Night 2.0 – Good TV, Bad Ex-Girlfriend?

“We don’t do good television, we do the news.” – MacKenzie

Most of the action that took place in the second episode of The Newsroom revolves around the battle between good news and good television (or just gossip/media that sells). In the first few minutes of the episode, MacKenzie and McAvoy debate over what makes ‘good television’ and what makes ‘good news.’ Good television, according to McAvoy, is what draws people in, gets ratings, gains popularity and makes money. Good news, MacKenzie states, is “what the people need,” not flashy, visually attractive pieces that have no real substance other than obtaining high ratings and jumping on the bandwagon with other news stations.

McAvoy’s and MacKenzie’s views on this subject of good news versus good television are particularly ironic, because they’re swapped in “News Night 2.0.” As both McAvoy and MacKenzie try to focus on revamping and recreating News Night (with the intention of giving it a fresh new take on news to make it stand out among other shows), they end up discussing experiences from their past life as a couple.

McAvoy becomes the person who hates flashy news that draws the attention of others–he makes it clear throughout the episode that he doesn’t want MacKenzie to bring up their past relationship in the office. On the opposite side, MacKenzie becomes a person who searches for publicity and the approval and ‘ratings’ of other people, in a sense–she wants the News Night team to learn that McAvoy isn’t the man they’re all making him out to be. Unfortunately, MacKenzie ends up taking this quest too far as she accidentally sends out a mass email to the office about her involvement with another person while still dating McAvoy.

MacKenzie watches McAvoy from a point of safety (debatably) while on air.

MacKenzie watches McAvoy from a point of safety (debatably) while on air.

This play on appearance versus reality is something that follows both McAvoy and MacKenzie throughout the whole episode, as well as other characters like Harper and Maggie. Harper and Maggie only know about one another based on what they’ve seen on the outside. As they work together on trying to secure an interviewee for the episode on illegal immigration in the United States, they discover that they both care for the news equally. They (as well as McAvoy, MacKenzie, and the rest of the News Night team) want to create a news show “to realign and refocus TV news journalism for the better.” (Shaffer, IGN)

New associate producers and interns were also introduced into the show during this episode as the new team behind the scenes (since News Night is being revamped and revitalized after it’s temporary discontinuation after McAvoy’s outburst). The news room is now starting to come together and work as a fully functional unit, but it’s not extremely well portrayed in this episode. There’s more of a focus placed on individual people and their relationships with one or two other people, instead of a focus being placed on the entire office and the many relationships going on all over the office.

Although characters were introduced, relationships were elaborated upon and stories were developed on, I don’t believe this episode was quite as good as the first. This is mainly because of the lack of focus on the actual show. It’s clear that this was more of a character/relationship-driven episode (not a continuation of the theme from the first episode, one that involved mixing interpersonal relationships with the construction and design of a news program to tell people the honest news and nothing but it), a theme that’s seen in one of the first episodes of almost everyone narrative television show ever made. I give it a 3 out of 5, with hopes that future episodes will place more focus on the actual newsroom aspect of the show.

Reference Article: IGN News Night 2.0 Review, RL Shaffer

Reference Article: No White Noise New Night 2.0 Review, Michael Collado

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S1E1, We Just Decided To – My Thoughts Exactly

I worked in a newsroom not too long ago. Only it was called “The War Room” in my case. It wasn’t for a televised news show like Atlantis Cable News, but for the Queens Chronicle, the most widely read and distributed print newspaper in Queens.

I’ll never forget the day that the paper’s editor-in-chief approached me and said that he wanted me to front a story for their website about Congressman Weiner’s expected resignation later that day. The E.I.C. gave me a press release that was still hot off the printer and asked me to get on it. What ensued was an experience not far from the one I just witnessed in the first episode of The Newsroom.

In my case, preparing a story with such little notice was fairly easy, mainly due to the fact that Weiner had already made various statements and remarks about his situation. In the case of the oil drilling explosion and spill off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the first episode of The Newsroom, this was not so. Everyone had to work together as one efficient machine, no matter what people’s views were or how they felt about one another. They had to get along (or at least respect one another to some degree) to get the job done. Once the realized that, the pieces of the story almost fell into place by themselves.

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

The Newsroom perfectly portrays life in a bustling news room. Go figure!

In the beginning of the pilot episode, Will McAvoy (played by Jeff Daniels, whom I felt a special connection to after recently visiting Gettysburg, PA and seeing him play the roll of Colonel Chamberlain in Gettysburg) admits that the United States is not the best country in the world; it’s far behind in so many areas, but just like it was the greatest country in the world at one point in time, it can be again. Unfortunately, McAvoy chooses to say this after cursing out liberals and conservatives during a political debate (as well as a “college frat girl”).

Viewers experience the debate in McAvoy’s point of view, which is achieved by having the camera rack in and out of focus on both sides of the debate floor while seeing McAvoy rub his temples and roll his eyes. Debates can often times be disorienting and hard to sit through, especially when childishness and name-calling is involved. This is how I sometimes feel during political debates involved presidential candidates, political parties, etc, so I was immediately able to associate with McAvoy. He didn’t have to say how he was feeling about the debate for people to understand that he doesn’t believe there’s any point to the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person/party/candidate makes (even though he goes on to do so a few minutes later).

Despite these facts, McAvoy’s main point is clear. Viewers start off wondering how McAvoy feels about the whole debate situation, then are confronted by an outburst of full-on rage (incited by a pugnacious debate moderator, might I add), and then are introduced to a caring, nostalgic, and somewhat mourning side of the man. Unfortunately, the media and his co-workers/employers twists his words and choose what part of his speech they want to listen to. For a majority of the rest of the episode, McAvoy feuds with Charlie Skinner (ACN news division president) and Don Keefer (the former executive producer of McAvoy’s show) about the direction of the show and the introduction of a new executive producer (which viewers find out is McAvoy’s ex-girlfriend). It’s only when, as mentioned before, the oil spill story surfaces that the team is forced to work together and put aside their differences for the good of the show and out of respect for the men and women who lost their lives in the explosion.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

Despite their differences, the team learns that the show must go on.

The main reason that this pilot episode works so well is because of its cleverness and likeliness to the work of George Orwell. In Animal Farm, Orwell uses various farm animals to make a sociopolitical and psychological statement about the nature of Soviet Russia after WWII. In “We Just Decided To,” Aaron Sorkin (the show’s creator) uses the colorful cast of a broadcast television newsroom to represent the state of the government in US and how things could be if people worked across to the aisle. This cast works in other realms of thought like racial stereotyping (the tech guy) and office relationships/love triangles (Don, Maggie and James), but it shines overall as a show that wants to get right to the point and get the work done.

Minus parts of the show that slow down the action just a tad towards the middle (like MacKenzie’s introduction back into the world of the news room and awkward bouts of tension between Don and James), I think this episode well deserves a 4.5/5 rating!

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By the way, this is a link to the article I eventually produced at the QC–just in case anyone is interested: QChron Weiner Resigns