Newsroom Season 3 Episode 5: Oh Shenandoah

I wrote a few posts that I decided to trash for various reasons about the media stories of the week — this episode of the Newsroom gave me the ability to touch on most of what I wanted to talk about. I’m hopeful that I can do it in a reasonable/respectful way. Deep breath. Here goes nothing.

First, the name of the episode has to be based on the folk song, which will draw comparisons to the episode Fix You but this episode felt very different (in part due to the ending of the series approaching).

Jailer: Since I got here, you’re my third contempt of court. First one was a contested traffic ticket. The guy cursed at the judge. The second one was a lawyer.
Will McAvoy: What’d he do?
Jailer: He cursed at the judge. You’re my first reporter.
Will McAvoy: I’m Will. I’d shake your hand —
Jailer: I know who you are. So the traffic ticket, he was here for a night. But the lawyer was here for a weekend. Three nights, and you could tell he was starting to go a little — you know, it affected him. You’re gonna be locked in a cage now, and it’s not a natural thing.

I don’t think you generally get an orientation from your jailer. Although, on a completely different point, this is reminding me of how much I’d love to have Aaron Sorkin write an episode of Orange is the New Black. Just one. He could write a helluva episode around Lorna Morello and it would be completely different from every other bit. Don’t know how prison would change his writing but I’d be excited to see it and find out.

52 Days Later!

That’s a LONG time, I’ll admit that I didn’t see a flash forward like that coming — very surprised.

ACN Ad: You aren’t a consumer, you’re a citizen. You aren’t an audience, you’re an activist. You aren’t a viewer, you’re ACN. You are ACN.

Honestly, not the worst commercial I’ve ever seen. Heck, it’s not the worst ad I’ve seen this weekend. We’re getting into the point where you can compare ACN with The New Republic, other outlets will probably do a better job at that than I can so I will leave it for them.

MacKenzie McHale: It’s as offensive as I thought it was gonna be when I heard about it.
Charlie Skinner: Offensive to whom?
Mac: Me. And him. And Will and Sloan and everyone who works here and you. We are ACN.
Charlie: It’s a slogan. It doesn’t mean anything.
Mac: First, I wouldn’t be relived that our new slogan doesn’t mean anything.
Charlie: I meant–
Mac: But it isn’t a slogan. It’s a statement of our new direction.

You can call a statement of a new direction made for an ad a slogan.

Don Keefer: It looks like urine.
Charlie: It doesn’t, you’re just complaining for the sake of it. The best graphics house in the UK was paid $700,000 to build that spot.
Don: I don’t mean the animation. U-R-A-C-N. Our brains are trained to see groups of letters as a word and visually that group of letters looks like urine.

I’ve heard of those studies that suggest Don’s point but I don’t see it — also I don’t think most people see the word urine spelled out all that often.

Mac: Young people know when they’re being patronized. Everybody knows when they’re being patronized.
Charlie: I’ve been hearing this for 52 days.
Mac: Because in 52 days, I’ve put three Twitter monitors on our set. Passing weather systems are reported like al-Qaeda sleeper cells. And a total of 84 air minutes have been spent on the mayor of Toronto while zero minutes have been spent on the mayor of Detroit whose city is about two minutes away from bankruptcy.

That’s some great writing. I’d argue that Rob Ford smoking crack, breaking laws and generally being a laughingstock is more important to voters in Toronto than the fact that Detroit is crashing (which had been the case for awhile). Obviously, covering the crisis in Detroit is important but what can you show/solve/inform in a cable news program? It’s very hard to carry on complex dialogues (as you would need with a city declaring bankruptcy) in a one segment block. Sometimes it seems as if this would be a lot better if the show was based around a newspaper.

Charlie: Also in those 52 days, we’ve gone from fourth to third in households and second in the demo. In seven weeks, the average age of our audience has dropped three years. And we did all that while still managing to cover a military takeover in Egypt and most recently, a pretty big scandal involving the NSA. We’ve got two reporters at the Moscow Airport right now. Two. So can you do me a favor and not worry that the world’s most benign promo is a threat to democracy?

Why not convince these people to use ACN? They could have a web page (since I know how much they hate the word blog) just devoted to this stuff. It seems that their news budget is something most media organizations would kill for.

Don: So, the Princeton story. The website.
Charlie: There is an epidemic of campus sexual assaults in this country. It’s a perfectly legitimate story. In fact, it’s an important one, so what’s your fucking problem?
Don: I agree. I just don’t know how to do the story.
Charlie: I don’t understand.
Don: I don’t know how to do it. I’m looking for some guidance.
Charlie: You interview the student with the website. You interview one of the guys who’s been accused. Why is it complicated?

Ah, now we get to the Rolling Stone portion. I’m going to try to tread pretty lightly here while still making some points (and transcribing a ton of this out of habit). You need to do more than that. We find out later about a police report: get it. Fact check everything. Find witnesses. Check everything with lawyers and make sure you have general statistics about ALL cases. It basically boils down to this: Get all the information, get all the facts right and then (and only at that point) consider how to present it.

Don: Well, it’s complicated for a lot of reasons, and one of them is that Pruit wants them both in the studio.

The owner of a media company can’t micromanage those things. He either has to trust the people he has or get new ones. It’s not the “not knowing how” thing it’s if he trusts the people to do the news in a manner which is appropriate.

Sloan Sabbith: I was just chewed out for 10 minutes by Erin Andrews.

Is Sorkin a big Erin Andrews fan or something?

Sloan: The paparazzi knew she was in there because of our creepy stalker app. I’m coming to you as my superior, which I mean only in a sense of our organizational chart, and pleading with you to have what’s his name —
Don: Bree
Slaon: Bree shut down the app.

In what world does Sloan think that Don has the power over all of ACN digital? He produces a show. The doesn’t control the digital production of the network.

Bree Dorrit: I’m senior editor of ACN Digital, if you’re going to be insulting.
Don: Nobody wants to be insulting.
Sloan: I badly want to be insulting.
Don: Here’s the thing, Sloan got a call from Erin Andrews–
Bree: You know Erin Andrews?

I have a hard time believing that someone at that level would be star struck that one TV star knows another TV star.

Bree: Yowza, I want to get with that so bad.

This is supposed to be a SENIOR EDITOR, I don’t know what digital editors Sorkin has met but he needs to do another newsroom tour and figure out that they aren’t completely incompetent and stupid.

Slaon: I’ll pass that on. I’m sure she’ll want you to have her number.
Bree: Hey, fuck you
Slaon: Yeah?
Don: You can’t talk to her like that, my friend.

Really, a simple “fuck you” I understand this is all just the foreplay to Sloan killing him on the air but he could have said something much more insulting.

Don: Listen, no kidding around, you need to disable the app until we can figure this out, ’cause it’s a little not what we do.
Bree: What’s not what you do?
Sloan: Giving deranged people with access to semiautomatic weapons the locations of their targets while simultaneously turning the rest of our brains into wheatena.

Totally agree with Sloan’s first point on the deranged people, on the second point: if you don’t like it and don’t read it/use it how will it turn your brain into anything?

Bree: That app’s driving a lot of traffic?
Don: I don’t care if it’s driving in the Grand Prix of Monaco. I need you to temporarily take it down.
Sloan: Then permanently take it down.
Bree: You need to speak to my boss.
Sloan: He’s your boss.
Don: I’m your boss.
Bree: Lucas Pruit is my boss. I pitched him the app and he loved it, which is why he have it.

Now that’s pretty accurate. People need to learn to read org charts.

Don: This is a warmed-over version of the same app Gawker had and took down five years ago.
Bree: They still have a version of it, but this one’s better.
Don: Look–
Bree: No, you look. We’re all a little tired of being treated like we’re not Neal Sampat. I like my app and it makes money, both of which are more than I can say for your 10:00 hour. So if you have a problem, and I got a hunch you got more than a few, why don’t you take it to Pruit?
Don: Beat him up
Slaon: No, he’s right.

Here’s where they lose me. No chance anyone buys this crap. Also it’s nuts to think that Sloan would have him on the show and the phone number. Just a waste.

Don: There’s an undergrad at Princeton who started a website for students who have been raped, but who don’t have enough evidence for the police to take action. Victims can go onto the site either anonymously or not and name names and describe their experiences. Pruit wants the undergrad and one of the accused in the studio.
Sloan: That’s a terrible idea
Don: I know, do you have a better one?
Sloan: Don’t do it?
Don: Do you have a better one where I get to keep my job?
Sloan: Charlie’s gonna back you.
Don: Charlie told me to do it.

It’s a little strange that Charlie completely changed in the space between last episode and this one but we didn’t get to see the change. Another episode of Charlie getting convinced to go this route and/or forced would have been good (OK, honestly I’m just trying to bargain for another episode).

Jim Harper: I want to ask him [Edward Snowden] at what point he decided to declare war on the United States.
Maggie Jordan: So I think you should let me get the ball rolling.
Jim: You and your whole generation’s contempt for institutions.
Maggie: I’m two years younger than you.
Jim: With your hair and your clothes and your music.

Even Jim wouldn’t start with that kind of question, that’s absolutely nuts.

Maggie: I was brushing up on my Russian with my Russian phrase book, or Russkiy razgovornik, while you were watching “Star Wars” on your iPad.
Jim: Trek. “Star Trek.” Both excellent examples of genius, but different in every imaginable —
Maggie: Yeah, shut up

I think Jim spent his time on the plane better than Maggie.

Cellmate: You aren’t afraid you’re gonna run into some of the people you sent here?
Will: That’s why I’m supposed to be in solitary.

Makes sense, still glad it was spelled out to those who don’t remember Will’s past.

Charlie: Today she [Lady Gaga] broke her silence and tweeted in support of — in defense of — in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Sloan’s going to interview her manager.
Mac: You’re still able to hear yourself when you speak, right?
Charlie: Yeah.
Mac: I’m glad Lady Gaga wants to engage people–
Charlie: She has 40 million Twitter followers.
Mac: Does her manager bring expertise to the table on marriage equality?
Charlie: What kind of expertise is there on that subject?
Mac: Someone who’s familiar with state legislature.

Why does it have to be about policy? We had the biggest shift in public opinion in the shortest amount of time that anyone has ever seen (with the polling data). Is that not a story? Looking into why people changed their minds and if pop culture had an influence? Now, that’s probably not what Gaga’s people are looking to sell but you could put a news hook on this.

Charlie: How about she brings 40 million people to a civil rights debate? I don’t think gay couples who’d just like to move the fuck on with their lives are as choosy about that discussion.
Mac: It’s trending, Charlie. Lady Gaga’s tweets, they’re trending number one. So Pruit picked up the phone and said “Do this.” That’s why you book her manager, to report on the tweets.

Then Mac has to suggest a compromise, she’s been losing this fight and isn’t going to win by the high road — but she might by finding the middle ground.

Honestly, the conversation about reporting on rape deserves much more info than I can put into this blog post and it’s not the place for the commentary that’s normally on the blog. I will add that the Phat Lady is on the menu at Hoagie Haven in Princeton.

I’m also realizing that we’re at the point where I won’t get invested in new characters. I don’t care enough about what the cellmate says to transcribe it and the Jim/Maggie situation is wonderfully familiar (some may call it predictable but I’m sticking with wonderfully predictable for now).

Jim: I like you. And I don’t really know why you don’t know that.
Maggie: Because if you wanted to be with me, you’d be with me.
Jim: That’s just not at all true. You were with Don when I met you.
Maggie: You never called me from New Hampshire.
Jim: Yes, I did.
Maggie: No, you didn’t. Ever. And you knew I had split up with Don and you knew why. You went through Lisa, you went through Hallie. And you never called me from New Hampshire. So it’s really not as obvious as you think it is. And it’s also probably not true.
Jim: Well, the rest might be right — it’s not, but it had potential — but the last thing was unambiguously wrong.
Maggie: What language are you–
Jim: I do like you. I like you and I’m glad I said it. Even though now I wish I had said it at the end of a 13- hour flight.

This speech is the Maggie-Jim relationship in one scene. It’s probably be better when written out than spoken — it’s hard to get every word of it when just listening (trust me).

Maggie: Follow me.
Jim: Where are we going?
Maggie: Exactly where you think we’re going

How did nobody make a mile high club reference there? They’re on HBO, that had to have been considered.

Slaon: Editor of ACN Digital.

Quick note: they should really say “senior editor” or “an editor” as to not leave any impression that he is “the editor” even though that’s how they treat Bree.

ACNgage is obviously awful and really hard to defend and Bree needs to know when to walk away (it was ASAP).

Confused by Sloan’s stats, I always thought the average income for a hosuehold was about $60,000. I’d be shocked if it was under $30K. Also the median would probably be better for her point than the mean.

Pruit: Her and her, tell ’em to pack their shit and get out of here.
Charlie: I apologize for the interview.
Sloan: I don’t
Pruit: Pack up your shit and get out of here, lady
Charlie: Look–
Pruit: She tore apart our network except it isn’t ours, it’s mine. So either Thelma and Louise vacate the premises in the next five minutes or I will fire the mother fucking lot of you right now.
Charlie: No, you won’t. ‘Cause you can’t. Only I can. A parting gift from Mrs. Lansing

How the hell did we get this far into the episode before that came up? It’s also absurd and Pruit has to be able to fire Charlie or at least keep paying them but replace them and run the contract out. Just craziness that he can’t do anything.

I knew (from the episode summaries) that someone was going to die so it wasn’t a surprise when Charlie died.

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~ by realfactsandbeer on December 8, 2014.

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