Be Grateful You Weren’t Facing The Other Way: The Newsroom Thread

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First of all, I have to talk aboutthis, because I spent the first part of last week being actually really upset and ill about it:

“Listen here, Internet girl,” he says, getting up. “It wouldn’t kill you to watch a film or pick up a newspaper once in a while.” I’m not sure how he’s forgotten that I amwriting for a newspaper; looking over the publicist’s shoulder, I see that every reporter is from a print publication (do not see: Drew Magary). I remind him. I say also, factually, “I have aNew York Timessubscription and an HBO subscription. Any other advice?”

He looks surprised, then high-fives me. Being not a person who high-fives or generally makes physical contact with interview subjects, I look more surprised.

“I’m sick of girls who don’t know how to high-five,” he says. He makes me try to do it “properly,” six times. He also makes me laugh; I’m nervous, and it’s so absurd. He loves it. He says, “Let me manhandle you.” Then he ambles off, hoping I’ll write something nice, as though he has never known how the news works, how many stories can be true.

So Sorkin is acting like an asshole, maybe just is an asshole, and I hope he continues to get his ass kicked for it, because I have such a hard time squaring this with the young people always depicted in his work as proving bitter oldsters wrong about them. There are plenty of talented young people in his stories. How does the compassion that allows him to see them desert him when they present themselves in life, or dismiss them as exceptions? It drives me wild.

The West Wing was pretty much entirely about this (“This is what happens when you put teenagers in the White House”). Huge swaths of Sports Night were about this (“Natalie comes from a very small town in Ohio, so small I can’t belive she’s left me on hold this long”), but Sorkin was younger then. Maybe that was it.

Realistic, though. Because:

Lemme explain things about being in a newsroom as a girl of 22 who up until that point had never had to feel like she should apologize for her existence or prove anything to anybody. I got called shallow and arrogant, a lot. I got told what I didn’t understand, a lot. I got told what I’d understand when I got older, a lot (racism, mostly, and teawadi tax-hate). I heard a lot about how shitty it was to hire twentysomething girls because we’d all just go have babies (said by men with children). It drove me into homicidal rages, because fuck you, old man, right? And finally I figured out that none of that shit was about me, and it was just a dodge, and it was a fight we were having so we wouldn’t have other fights.

Lots of newsrooms right now are mired in this bullshit, where the older, more experienced reporters rag on the younger, less experienced ones for not being old and experienced. The older folks are threatened, they’re angry, they’re hurting, and the college grad at the desk next to them is lower-hanging fruit than the real villain of the piece, the exec who fired their longtime colleagues and hired the kids in the first place. The kids want jobs and here was a job, same as grandpa over there who used to type on a Remington and so is More Authentic Than You.

The older grandpa gets, the more worried he is that he hasn’t done anything worthwhile, and the more likely he is to hang his accomplishments on shit that doesn’t mean anything, like Being There First and Who Are The Interwebs Anyway. Instead of just acting like the 22-year-old acts, like he has nothing to prove to anybody, and let’s use what’s useful and kick some ass together because no matter how old you get the best story is still out there waiting for you.

Which is why Mackenzie is Don Quixote, the heroine of the story, and Maggie gets promoted to associate producer, and Jim owns my soul, and Will is the donkey.

In other words, I feel like everybody watched the first ten minutes of the show in which Will did what he did, and missed the ensuing 65 minutes of people telling him to quit being such a fucking tool all the time.

(As to the other common complaint, that complete PWNAGE of the type the Newsroom practiced on the BP story was unrealistic, get me drunk enough sometime and I’ll tell you the Mary Gardner story and the one about the census numbers and the one about the war. Give me the exact five people I ask for [some of you reading this know who you are] and a day in a newsroom for them is a lifetime.)

So now that I’ve got that out of the way, there’s this show:

Ah, the unrealistic perfection of doing the news right. How it all just falls into place so perfectly.

Quick takes, or take: Can the next episode just be various people punching Don in the junk? He’s just about surpassing McDreamy as the worst boyfriend on TV and that is HARD to do. Charlie, I continue to love. Jim and Neal, I continue to love. Mackenzie was not at her finest but seriously, how many coworkers have we gotten reply-alls from that really shouldn’t have been? I’m a part of this nonprofit group that sends me like one of those a week.

Fire those bookers. Fire them. Do it loudly and publicly and burn their contacts in front of a Starbucks.

Anybody else in Chicago remember the Carol Marin newscasts on Channel 2 when they tried this sort of thing? Those were awesome in exactly inverse proportion to the amount of time they were given to succeed which was less than none.

So everybody’s at the bar afterward and the young people, who came in for such a drubbing last week, are all gathered around the table, and of course it’s way too pretty to be a seedy karaoke bar, but Gary Cooper said, “we’re the ones to do 2.0” or similar. The hunger is something I talk about here a lot, in relation to Kids Today and everybody, really. The way we give people everything these days except a way to be a part of something.

People don’t want to suck. They don’t want to only barely give a shit. They don’t want to feel like things are out of their control and they can’t change them, but they’re afraid to throw themselves into something because who even does that anymore isn’t immediately fed into some kind of emotional woodchipper? But the void is there. The hunger is there. And in some people it gets beaten out of them with age, so Mackenzie is right, they don’t know how to fuck this up yet. It’s not that young people are inherently better, any more than they’re inherently worse, but everybody who’s already made up his or her mind that failure is inevitable is less useful to the work of those who haven’t than the ones who still see a way over the wall.

I didn’t like this episode as much as I liked the one last week, but I liked some of the people in it a lot more.

A.

4 thoughts on “Be Grateful You Weren’t Facing The Other Way: The Newsroom Thread

  1. adrastos says:

    There was a *huge* droop in the middle when MacKenzie went all Lucy Ricardo in discussing her ex-thing with Will. I want more Charlie who may be a stereotype (gruff but caring editor) but is an awesome one.

  2. Athenae says:

    Oh, God, you know what I forgot to love on? The segment called TODAY ON YOUTUBE. Because holy shit, fromthis Pierce piece:
    DAVID GREGORY: Let’s actually frame this by going to our trend tracker this morning. What’s really moving online.
    I mean fucking fuck me with a fish fork.
    A.

  3. Marsupialus says:

    We gave up on it. Done. Finito. At 7:33 last night watching the east coast feed out here in Los Angeles, we changed the channel, deleted the show from the DVR and said, we’re not watching it anymore. Partly because of these long extended dialogues between two of the actors which are so much blather. Partly because of the second email incident where the whole thing got sent out to everyone. Really, she’s that incompetent with email? Nah, just didn’t believe it. A lovely little device that lost us as viewers. This was the problem with Studio 60 and why we couldn’t hang with that show either. Sorkin writes some great dialogue sometimes but those times are infrequent enough that I’m not sticking around for them.

  4. robertearle says:

    Did you notice there was a ‘you think? in it? 🙂

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