Of course “The Newsroom” gets bad press. The reviews are written in a newsroom.
The unfortunately unique thing is that when writing a show about journalism, your reviews are posted by the very people whose activity you are trying to dramatise.
Policemen don’t get to review crime dramas in the national press. Doctors don’t get a few minutes in the Entertainment chunk of a 24 hour news channel to dissect what is wrong with medical dramas. And I’ve never seen an oil baron explaining that the industry doesn’t work quite like Dallas.
In general, the people who gave high praise to dramas like “The Wire”, “The West Wing” and “Mad Men” haven’t been in those situations, so their reviews aren’t coloured by personal experience. “The Newsroom” is a different beast, because everybody working in a news organisation knows what their particular newsroom is like.
As I say, I’ve not seen the show, but the impression I get from the reviews is that of an industry struggling to suspend disbelief.
Which, whether it is default Excel charts in the far, far, far future, or demons infiltrating the internet, is pretty much how I feel nearly every single time a computer screen with a fancy looking operating system appears on-screen.
Or when someone in CSI, 24, Spooks or NCIS zooms into a blurry jpeg of a villain, and a user interface dripping in drop shadow helps them triangulate the IP address of the unseen mobile phone the guy had in his pocket.
There is a lesson for the news industry here.
The way journalists feel about “The Newsroom”? That is pretty much how everybody feels whenever they read a superficial story about something they know well in the press. Or endure a glib two-way between the studio anchor and a non-expert reporter in the field.
The sinking feeling that something they understand and cherish has been twisted in order to simplify it and make it more populist or sensational.
Today’s audience is more knowledgable and has more primary source material at its disposal than ever before. And nothing makes suspending disbelief harder than being asked to believe something not quite true about something you know quite well.