The Newsroom Needs Some Fixing of Its Own

Aaron Sorkin has to show, not just tell, viewers how news should be done.

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Sorkin seems to be setting up his sequence of events so that his characters can make an obscure Broadway joke (it feels like more effort has been put into an argument between Sloane and Will over Annie Get Your Gun than into the debate about gun control legislation that runs parallel to that argument) rather than let such quips ride effortless on more substantial conversations.

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2. Cool it on the romance.

Workplace romance usually makes for entertaining television (just ask any fan of The Office). However, Sorkin has allowed the love subplots of The Newsroom to run amok, in which the characters cannot seem to have an entire conversation without referencing an ex-relationship or a new prospect. In his The West Wing days, the inter-office affairs among Sorkin's characters worked because they were subtle and implied. The romance between show's press secretary C.J. Cregg and White House reporter Danny Concannon sizzled over charged glances and heated exchanges. They were never seen fighting or making up in full sight of their coworkers; Don and Maggie—and Will and Mackenzie, for that matter—often are.

"People would never yell at each other about cheating over headphones," says Stuart of her own newsroom days. But more than just being a matter of realism, by letting the romantic drama hijack The Newsroom, Sorkin is compromising the stakes of his show: that well-done journalism is necessary for the health of democracy. If his characters truly believed that, they could put aside a bitter break-up for the sake of doing the news.

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3. Show, don't tell, how the news should be done.

It is not until the last couple minutes of Sunday's episode as the News Night team jumps into action to cover the Giffords shooting that The Newsroom shows how good of a show it could be if Sorkin could find his focus. While other programs are broadcasting that the congresswoman has died, Will and his team refuse to make the call without sufficient reporting, despite the pressure to keep up the audience numbers in doing so. Don delivers the key line. "It's a person. A doctor pronounces her dead, not the news."

Anyone with newsroom experience could relate to how fast the News Night staff snapped into action.

"The staff was off doing their own thing, but when the Gabby Giffords news broke, everyone dropped what they were doing and got down to business," Stuart says. "That's what a newsroom does: It shifts gears quickly—everyone becomes a well-oiled machine and knows what they need to do when news breaks."

Will, Mackenzie, Charlie, and the rest of The Newsroom like to talk about how the news can be done better—at least better than their competitors. But when they show how it can be done better, The Newsroom comes the closest to reaching its lofty goals and Sorkin comes closest to living up to the high expectations to which he is held.

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