'The Newsroom' Season Two: A Still-Successful Immersion into the Heart of Journalism

Aaron Sorkin’s dramatic series, nominated for a 2013 Golden Globe, depicts the lives of an editorial television newscast team. Between the drama and its reflections on journalism, in just two seasons “The Newsroom” seems already to be a television masterpiece.

The newscast environment is not simply a modern setting for dramatic stories. No, here, the subject of the series is really and truly journalism, along with all of the critiques you can make about it. The media plays a central role in our daily lives. Because of this influence, their operations are often questioned. It is this aspect that gives the series a nuanced relevance, without coming off as too offensive. Above all, the series seeks to show us the inner workings, or a true backstage look, of a journalism team.

Behind the Scenes

Generally, each episode is based on mostly real current events, usually taken from headlines in the year before the script was written. We see firsthand how the story is constructed from initial preparations until it airs, along with all of the problems and questions that every news story can raise. This is a bit overplayed — we find the posturing common to any American fictional show — but realism is also there and, importantly, the immersion is complete. The existence of a serious working team gives complete credibility to the series.

The series’ criticisms take different forms. The series often advocates for free journalism, without jargon, putting us directly into the debate and more into contact with the recipients of the information.

Journalism and its inner workings also serve as a tool to address other subjects, such as politics, and particularly the differences between Democrats, Republicans and the tea party.

Journalism Ethics Issues

The “Genoa” case is the focus of this second season, which addresses the issue of ethics in journalism. The credibility of the Nightly News team at fictitious channel ACN is threatened because of the broadcast of a report falsified by one of the team members. This team member, while editing the interview of one of the sources of the story, simply cut out a phrase without notifying his colleagues, changing the meaning of what the source was saying and therefore changing everything. We can thus witness the process of investigative journalism, from the first “leak” to the ultimate dissemination of false information, and therefore better understand how something like this could happen.

Sorkin has emphasized the difficulty of separating truth from fiction, as well as the issue of trust between journalists and the public. This storyline reproaches journalists for being too picky, but also humanizes them in breaking down the errors they may make.

Useless and Underdeveloped Stories

But “The Newsroom” isn’t just a satire; it’s also entertainment. If seeing the inner workings of a fictional editorial team is fun, perhaps the most fun is in the many side stories that play out, as well as the relationships that develop between the characters.

We can’t help but become attached to them, allowing us to appreciate these little side stories that, frankly, are otherwise useless and underdeveloped. The characters’ charisma, due in part to their unique characteristics, helps us become interested in some of their relationships and small personal mishaps.

However, what is of true interest are the parallel stories that remain the focus of the series — the journalism itself. This framework gives meaning to an otherwise melodramatic and useless mess.

As an example, we have the character of Mackenzie, an executive producer, who over the course of two consecutive episodes asks one of her journalists to change her Wikipedia page because, contrary to what is written, she studied at the University of Cambridge and not at Oxford.

While the first season split 50/50 between personal and journalistic stories, the second season puts the personal stories in the background in most episodes, with the Genoa case taking first place in the storyline. Even Will, the news anchor on whom the story is centered, seems almost like a secondary character.

Other parallel stories, however, have real strength. The character of Maggie, for example, returns traumatized from reporting a story in Africa, where she has had a very trying experience.

A Successful Immersion

At the end of the day, “The Newsroom” leads us into the corridors of a multifaceted American journalism team, giving us a nuanced and critical view of journalism. Sorkin takes this opportunity to reach beyond the usual fare and offer us a real social and political satire.

In the end, “The Newsroom” remains true entertainment, giving us a good time in the heart of the intriguing U.S. media world. This second season confirms that Sorkin’s television series is already making its mark on the small screen.

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