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Messy Monday July 16: Newsrooms, Tebow and what to do about the news

Katie Toth

The Newsroom hasn’t left yet, and neither have people who hate on it

I’ve been reading a lot of critiques of the Newsroom on Monday mornings, mostly because I can’t afford HBO and it allows me to hate-watch vicariously. In case you actually have things to do on your Sunday nights, allow me to explain. The Newsroom is the latest Aaron Sorkin drama, after the likes of The West Wing and Sports Night. It’s a show set in 2010 about how great white men could have saved the news, a nostalgic and wistful sigh for an earlier time when broadcasts were in black-and-white and people were somehow better.

However, those of us who aren’t older white dudes kind of know that those days weren’t great for everyone. And a couple weeks ago, Cord Jefferson, writing for Gawker, slammed the show hardest of all:

“My father was born in the 1940s, the decade Sorkin says was the last time the United States was great. Yet despite being a big fan of Sorkin’s Sports Night, I don’t think my dad shares his affinity for America’s recent history. Though he doesn’t remember a lot of his early childhood, my dad does remember the first time his mother told him to be careful about how he spoke to white men, lest his tone should provoke them. He remembers reading about Emmett Till, a black boy who was just a bit older than him, who was mutilated and murdered in the South for getting “uppity” with a white woman. He remembers seeing photos of Till and noticing a resemblance—they could have been brothers, he thought.

An old straight white man saying he misses the days when things were simpler is tacitly saying that he misses the time when nobody could say or do anything but he and his golf buddies. And he’s right: Things move much more smoothly when you’re allowed to lock up or beat down whatever stands in your way. The real question is this: Is such simplicity “great”?

In honor of Cord’s greatness, I give you guys my two other favorite Newsroom critiques so far:

Emily Nussbaum (The New Yorker):

Naturally, McAvoy slices through crises by “speaking truth to stupid,” in McHale’s words. But he also seizes credit for “breaking stories”—like the political shenanigans of the Koch brothers—that were broken by actual journalists, all of them working in print or online.

And Sarah Nicole Prickett (The Globe and Mail), who Sorkin, quite rudely, shrugged off as a mindless “Internet Girl”:

I do not want us to stop believing in heroes; only in heroes who think, as Sorkin’s heroes think, they’re truth-raining gods.

Speaking of white male hero worship…

Church groups are now planning pilgrimages for their congregations to see NFL Jets star Tim Tebow at training camp. The evangelical darling has become an icon in Protestant religious circles, for his outspoken commitment to faith on the football field.

Let’s just hope the small city of Cortland, New York, where the Jets are currently training, is ready for the Tebowmania that will ensue.

And speaking of making the news better…

How do we tell good stories when top politicos refuse to speak without near-total message control?

It’s not just Harper’s Conservatives: top U.S .Democrat and Republican strategists have stopped casual interviews with media, now insisting on veto power for every quote, the New York Times reports.

“With a millisecond Twitter news cycle and an unforgiving, gaffe-obsessed media culture, politicians and their advisers are routinely demanding that reporters allow them final editing power over any published quotations,” writes reporter Jeremy Peters. “Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all midlevel aides in Chicago and at the White House — almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.)”

It’s worth noting that back in the day before they demanded quote approval, some strategists just wouldn’t talk to media at all. Now, journalists are finally getting the interviews they want—but only if they’re willing to massage the facts and sanitize their source.


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