HBO's 'Newsroom' Corrupts Its Own Plea for Balanced Reportage

I readily enjoyed the first episode of HBO's latest series, "The Newsroom," and looked forward to seeing what show creator Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind "The West Wing" and "Moneyball," had in mind for episode two.

For the uninitiated, "The Newsroom" is Sorkin's attempt to show what modern news would look like if journalistic integrity still existed and reporters put their ideologies aside, considered both sides of an argument and asked the pressing questions that needed to be asked.

While there were subtle jabs at conservatives throughout episode one, I felt like there were just as many runs at liberals and the liberal mainstream media to make up for it. So this wasn't much of a bother for me. It certainly didn't drive me away from the entertaining dialog and sarcastic banter between the faux news room's players, and I believe its premise is likely interesting to anyone like myself frustrated by the politically driven gossip on Fox News and the pathetic attempts by CNN to be a news agency.

But the subtlety began to dry up during Sorkin's second installment which aired Sunday. In an episode centering around the 2010 Arizona SB1070 anti-illegal immigration bill, the news network has the misfortune to lose a live interview with Gov. Jan Brewer and is forced to go to back-up interviews. Strangely enough, the only individuals available for comment in support of the bill in the entire 6.4 million person state of Arizona are a racist professor, a brain dead beauty pageant runner-up to the runner-up (You'll get that joke when you watch the episode), and a gun toting member of the Arizona Minutemen -- the border protection group run by citizens.

The implications here may not be initially obvious, but the message is clear when given some thought. Sorkin wants to paint the law as idiotic, but he also needs to maintain the premise of his new show. So he makes the staff of the TV series look like they are trying to honestly find rational support for the bill. When the Brewer interview falls through, only the aforementioned group is left to be scheduled in time for the show to defend the bill. Clearly, "The Newsroom" wants us to believe no one with any intelligence really supports the thing.

In what is Sorkin's craftiest move yet a bright blue book sits on the Minuteman's book shelf. I glanced at it and sat up. I had that book. In fact I was given that book while I worked at The Heritage Foundation. Sitting on the shelf of the man crafted to be a gun toting, racist crazy person, clearly in and out of frame, is a copy of "A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror."

The book has been praised in many conservative circles and often heralded by Glenn Beck. But the connection of "patriotism" and "conservatism" as mutually agreeable and united factions has been deemed "dangerous" by our own government. Recall that "patriots," also known as "single issue domestic terrorists" like pro-lifers or those concerned about the issue of immigration, were labeled by the Department of Homeland Security in 2009 as "right-wing extremists."

Sorkin's message is clear. Here sits an uneducated, trigger happy "conservative patriot" who can't defend his positions in an educated fashion and is probably motivated by racial prejudice, complete with gun in his right hand and his "Patriot's History" on his bookshelf. This is pretty sneaky on Sorkin's part.

If there are any underground or behind the scenes cultural jabs at liberals, I hope someone points them out to me. If they exist, then fair is fair. But if the underhanded stuff is just being directed toward the conservative crowd, then the premise of the television show has failed in its very execution.

I'll still give the show my attention for the time being, though I have to wonder from this point forward how I can honestly receive a show centering around supposed journalistic integrity when the shows creators and writers can't even present the show itself in a fair manner.

At least we will all know to have our eyes open a little wider from this point forward.


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