Just This Side of a Snuff Film: The Newsroom Thread



Dan Rather, from a while back:

Things I especially liked (and know to be true based on my own experience): How a newsroom springs to life when a big breaking story hits. (The example they used is the Giffords shooting in Arizona.) How it’s nearly always true that some good reporter gets fixated on some “way out” story (The example for this is the “Big Foot” story that won’t die.) The sleepless nights of anchormen (and women), who, if they are any good, have more of them than most people—sometimes for good reasons, sometimes for trivial ones.

Because that’s it, you know? The passion’s right. The rest of it, forgivable, fixable, whatever. But this gets the dynamic right.

Quick takes: I wonder if Reese being a cockhole will finally shut up everybody who’s talking about how PBS and NPR already do the news like Newsnight is trying to. The entire POINT is that commercial and public have become enemies and shouldn’t be, because they’re not opposed if you don’t subscribe to Reese’s nasty bullshit way of thinking.

Mack’s ex is doing my favorite thing in reporting which is to just hang out somewhere and figure out what’s going on. That’s not enough, but it’s my favorite part, where you let it into your head and roam around in there. It’s hard to describe.

HOW LONG have we been wanting somebody to say, on TV, that this balance thing is horseshit, and here we are? I think people underestimate, a lot, what it’s like to hear that coming from a national TV show, and not just from crazy hippie blogs. Love us though I do.

We didn’t get a lot of Don tonight but what we got was enough to horrify me, and I thought I knew a lot about this business.

Oh, God, Charlie. The crackup with Leona is terribly hard to watch, because I have a whole history in my head about Charlie and Leona, and how they came up together but he hung back to be who he is and she sold out to be who she is, but sometimes at night when he’s drunk and lonely he reads their old love letters or something, and remembers how amazing she was. And she hates him because she wants so much to be what he sees when he looks at her, to be the kind of person who could have kept the promises she made. I have gone off the fucking deep end. But he was standing there, on the street, sayingplease, for the sake of the love I bore you once upon a time do not be the person I know in my heart you are now. My favorite stories are always about people who in extremity just can’t convince themselves to shut their eyes anymore.

FUCK THE CASEY ANTHONY TRIAL, okay? There’s only one way to do this and I believe in this the way I believe in oxygen, when your competitors are all over something (especially when it’s stupid) you look where they’re not looking and you get on the NEXT huge story while they’re all pig-fucking each other over the current one. You cover it desultorily and you do it under duress, but all the while your real time and attention goes to the next thing, because there’s always a next thing. You want to be there for the next thing.

That’s the real lesson of all this 24-hour news cycle. It’s not just that there’s always some new piece of bullshit you have to deal with, it’s that you have to be able to do the bullshitand the next big thing. It’s about rationing your headspace so that you only care as much as you absolutely have to about the crap, and nobody but nobody is good at that without years of practice. Mackenzie hasn’t had years of practice. She’s had years of being shot at and thus is very good at triage. Which is not the same as prioritizing, and certainly not the same as multi-tasking.

(It took me five years at my first non-newsroom job to figure that last part out, by the way.)

Mostly, you want to be in charge of saying what the next big thing is. You want to be able to set the agenda. It’s not so much that it’s a shit story, the Casey Anthony trial. It’s also that they’re following everybody else, that they’re the same as everybody else, that they’re doing what everybody else does. You get trapped in a story like that, and you can’t find your way out. There’s nothing new to be said. The girl with the new information is already booked for three other shows. It’s not even her fault.

It’s yours. You’re the one deciding to be this person. So the question is, can you be what you need to be to survive, and at the same time, be something else?