By Sneha Roy Chowdhury
Close to a month and a half back HBO concluded what may have been one of its most impressive and inspiring shows. Rising with much promise and great regard, the network has aired some thought provoking shows over the years. By exploring a wide range of genres, including drama, comedy, mini-series and tele-movies and supported by eclectic and riveting stories, HBO has been successful in giving the world some brilliant and extensively researched work.
In this strife, it presented to us what may be closest to the truth – The Newsroom.
Pivotal to the plot is the idea, or rather the ideal, of purging the signs of yellow journalism and presenting to a people who most deserve it, what is the unbiased and absolutely verified truth of a certain reported event. It is an earnest attempt at bringing back earnestness into journalism. It is a depiction of how the news, the enabler of the millions, the media is not a tool in the hands of bigger greater political manipulation but, much to the contrary, an instrument of absolute empowerment through access to useful broadcasting.
A cynic may call the show utopian in between all the wry, sarcastic smiling. But the show was very particular, and successful, in showing its fixated audience that the opportunity to show the truth was not the missing ingredient in the dishes of misinformation doled out by the media each day, it was intention. And this is what fresh and firm Executive Producer, Mackenzie McHale brings to the table-News Night 2.0.
As one has guessed already, this show is centred around the workings of a digital media studio and the changing dynamics that sum up news reporting today. The brilliance of the show is, however, not limited to the realistic honesty it projects, but somehow manages to spill over to strong characters and plot developments, relations to contemporary events and a very vivid picture of how some of those events could have looked to the world had they been represented well. To be able to understand and appreciate the format of a show as enriching as the one in question, I shall explain the very basic rules of how the structure of the news was considered most acceptable in the show. The pointers are simple-
“1. Is this information we need in the voting booth?
2. Is this the best possible form of the argument?
3. Is the story in historical context?”
And hence begins a saga of courtroom-styled news-reporting where interviews are interrogations, where guests volunteer the truth and where facts are tested, vetted and checked. It is solid news, not an hour of passive entertainment meted out by condescending, screeching propagandist with agendas that can’t spell truth to save their lives. Various issues, in subtle and sometimes conspicuous ways, are touched upon in the course of the show stretching from LGBT+ rights to the DADT policy of the American Army and from immigration policies to bold stories on members of the United States House and their views as policy makers. Some strikingly courageous episodes include coverage of popular Tea-Party Movement, the Occupy Wall Street Movement, the Japanese Earthquakes and the consequent nuclear crises of 2011. Very human moments were discernable within the busy hustle of this newsroom and delicate, nuanced characters grow from behind the research-laden piles of this office. Decisions are made, pressures are dealt with, authorities are defied, some battles are lost and the few that are won are worth the fight.
It never once failed to give us a picture of how differently we could have felt about most of these happenings if we had been allowed to view all sides to the argument and how much of a difference it would have made to us if they weren’t being spewed at us by angry panellists- each struggling merely to outshout the other and none ever making any definite sense. This is not to say that all these characters were flawless idols of virtue. That is not to say that each of them weren’t mired in their own insecurities and little routine notions of the right and wrong. It is also not to say that objectivity was always their best qualities. But they were the Quixote-s of our time- on their missions to civilise, fighting their fears and emerging broken maybe, but always enthused to give to the world what they felt made a positive difference.
With one of the most powerful opening scenes I have seen so far, this show lived up to its promise of some absolutely breathtaking performances from day one. As someone who writes and believes in engaging in parley, in expressing and having expression heard, appreciated and criticized, I thought this show was worth my contemplation. The premise of the show along with its very fitting cast won me over and its message of very sincere journalism perhaps etched a very prominent niche in my heart, as it did in the hearts of the many thinking viewers world over. The show is something to be reckoned with, to be noticed, to be mulled over. We need what it has to offer, we need more of that in the world today.
Sneha Roychoudhury is a student of History with a passion for words and can be best described by the collection of books stacked on her shelves and the little doodles made on tattered ends of these volumes. She dreams, and she protects them in a lexical fortress – some of it built and quite some imagined. Music renders her free and literature entwines her being- each mending the chipped pieces of her imperfect soul. Travel and the written word are her soul mates, the world a box of woes and wonder and the untold stories of the nameless millions her singular passion.
Edited by Nandini Bhatia