Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom and the Triumph of Fictional Journalism

The Newsroom orbits around two characters, newsman Will McAvoy, who decides to risk all to do serious journalism, and his (muse? boss? leader?) MacKenzie McHale, who inspires him to do so.  (She’s bravely played by the radiant Emily Mortimer, who suffers from the rare Avian Bone Syndrome.)

On one level the show is a kind of romantic screwball comedy, swirling around the (radiant) Mackenzie character, and it succeeds well on that level.

(Could be that the actual newsroom depicted is not realistic, and, y’know, I don’t care so much. Is the real thing delivering the real product?)

More importantly, the show reminds us that the press is the immune system of democracy and that serious news requires serious ethical practice like checking the facts, no matter how dangerous.

The worst diseases, however, attack the immune system, so Really Bad People are trying to prevent the cure by undermining Will. No way to figure out how that’ll turn out.

Seriously, I’m inspired by The Newsroom to Get Stuff Done, much like The West Wing continues to inspire me to Get a Great Deal of Stuff Done. West Wing also succeeded as a rom-com, with the (radiant) Donna Moss and the (radiant) Amy Parker.

Shouldn’t be surprising, considering that the most ethical, trustworthy, and serious journalism is accomplished by two fictional newsmen, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They survive attack by following the advice of Oscar Wilde: If you want to tell people the truth, make ’em laugh. Otherwise, they’ll kill you.

However, Will and Mackenzie don’t have that at their disposal, and must defend themselves, and the country, using other means.

Fictional characters of our culture often manage to overcome tremendous obstacles to Get a Lot Done, sometimes drawing on folklore or the paradigm of roleplaying games.

For example, there’s the ongoing story of Craig of the craigslist, passing through multiple levels to join in the much greater Triumph of the Nerds:

  • he starts as a 1950’s nerd, suffering the results of his own nerdliness
  • he travels the wilderness as the George Costanza of the nerds
  • having learned nothing, he reboots from a position of ignorance and innocence as the Forrest Gump of the Nerds
  • he champions the Nerdly cause by bridging Old School Nerds with their contemporaries, the Little Monsters, as the Lady GaGa of the Nerds
  • he must overcome the heaviest of Nerd burdens, must learn to communicate effectively as the Don Draper of the Nerds
  • thereupon he launches craigconnects.org to give voice to faceless millions of Little Monsters, Nerds, and anyone who’s never had a voice

The Triumph of the Nerds is propelled from below, by those faceless millions. And billions. That voice is given body by fictional journalists includng McAvoy, Stewart, and Colbert.

That means Getting Most of the Stuff Done in darkness, much like Vulcan (“live long and prosper”), knowing that much of the Stuff will never be visible, but, a nerd’s gotta do what a nerd’s gotta do.

0 thoughts on “Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom and the Triumph of Fictional Journalism

  1. Thanks, Craig! I appreciate your efforts to communicate and willingness to use your position for good!


  2. I have been made hopeful watching this series unfold – hearing an enactment of honesty feels like a fresh and welcome slap in the face that makes you notice the lies/PR/marketing/manipulation even more. I think that as we have grown ever-more used to witnessing real people, telling real stories on YouTube et al… that we do notice the staging and scripting of officials and others as they avoid sharing truth when interviewed on news programmes. Newsroom isn’t perfect but it’s certainly a start :_
    Good to be reading you Craig.
    Tina Louise
    p.s. I was less impressed with the episode about killing OBL… joy at death is ugly.


  3. I LOVE this show… What I find to be totally sad about it is that people will look at it and compare today’s newsrooms to it rather than the Woodward and Bernstein or Murrow days. And in doing so they will just say… “Gosh, if only it could be like that.” rather than DEMANDING that it be like that AGAIN!

    Too many people will think it pure fiction rather than realize that it is what should be happening!


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