Recently I’ve been avoiding the news. By recent, I mean for about 5 years, and by news, I really mean the olds. Because of the advent of digital media, we now have hundreds of channels, websites, and a 24 hour, nonstop news cycle. And yet, the public couldn’t be less informed or educated. I’m not blaming them, nor am I claiming to be the opposite, but there are a significant number of citizens who blindly absorb the same information from the same sources day in and day out, without even a hint of skepticism. My natural tendency toward cynicism and disbelief, coupled with the laughing-stock that is our current United States government, I cannot stomach the very biased news I see on any channel these days. I’m forced to cherry pick articles and laugh while learning as I watch the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, the only truly honest, inquisitive and insightful bits of news I’m lucky to get. NPR is great, but it’s also so damn dry. My god, I do need some more inflection and editorializing than I often get, but at least their agenda is clear: to inform.
I am interested in politics, but not in debate. I could give two shits what this expert feels versus the other. They all seem to have smart people in their corner and most are represented by power hungry, loud mouths who’ve scared the extremes of the left and right to follow them like sheep. I’ve been a sheep before, again, no judgment, but sometimes I just want to shake these very smart, capable people into thinking for themselves, instead of deciding before they wake up how they’ll see the world the following day. It’s exceedingly difficult to find one right answer for over 350 million people. I’d imagine the process to getting there is complex and daunting, but I’d also imagine the fundamentals of setting up a healthy, informed nation with opportunity is something we can get back to, and I hope we do.
I am patriotic but I’m not wearing rose-colored glasses. Our country is no longer the best and the brightest. Am I glad to have been born here? Definitely. There are so many aspects I love and am proud of, but as one who lived in Europe for three years and plans to travel and roam this planet, I feel and know deeply we can learn a thing or two from other sovereign nations and our arrogance is getting us nowhere. It is in this vein that I enthusiastically recommend the entire American populace watches The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s brilliantly written series for none other than H.B.O.
The Newsroom stars Jeff Daniels, a favorite actor from my childhood (any Dumb and Dumber fans out there?), who’s given some of the best performances of his career in the last decade. You must be sharp and fully equipped to ring off Sorkin dialogue and make it feel as believable and impassioned as it was written. And the cast of the Newsroom does just that. Daniels plays Will McAvoy, a rich and successful anchor of News Night who’s going through a series of changes after an uproarious speech uttered while debating on a news forum at Northwestern. Subsequently, he loses his executive producer and much of his staff, to be left with ex-flame MacKenzie McHale as his EP (bit of melodrama there) and a slew of new, energetic writers and producers encouraged to go back to the days of news with integrity.
After a long period of pandering to ratings and public opinion polls, the talented minds behind News Night decide enough is enough. No longer will they get lost in the shuffle of hyperbolic cable news, where opinions and bias run the show, content is used to inflame, stoke the fire of fear, and the almighty dollar received from advertisers are controlling the invisible hand from well behind the scenes. Their new goal is to return to a news program with integrity, what news used to be, an intelligent journalist informing the electorate with facts; sourced, qualified, irrefutable facts. When the news began, it was designed as a free public service, out from under the control of advertisers and suits, and instead seen as one hour of objective news, free from any influence.
Clearly we’ve gone in a different direction. The Newsroom brilliantly covers major events from congressional elections in 2010, the BP oil crisis, the swelling and ultimate misrepresentation of the Tea Party movement and the resulting losses the democrats suffered at the hands of extreme conservatives like Michelle Bachman. There is a major emphasis placed on objectivity here, and although the show plays on H.B.O. and is perhaps created and funded by Hollywood liberal elite, this show is led by and starring a registered Republican in McAvoy, a man frustrated by the extreme few speaking for the reasonable, and being sensationalized by the very petulant, drama hungry media.
There’s love interests, diversity in ages, cultures, opinions and backgrounds, but what I get most out of this show is razor-sharp writing delivered in a bold, influential manner. As we follow News Night behind the scenes, we’re privy to the very strict standards both the fictional news show, and the Newsroom in general, holds itself to. Conjecture and insinuation are gone, a party or political figure are not touted or hunted because of the ‘R’ or ‘D’ underneath their name. Is it news worthy? Do the electorate need to know this information? Is it credible and factual? In coming across the recent saturation of coverage this past weekend over the tragedy in Colorado, I can only imagine how News Night would choose to handle this situation.
Often we are consumed with nonsense because we want to avoid the importance of reality, of the genuine issues and challenges at stake. How someone did or did not treat a dog decades ago, reproductive rights (a 50-year-old resolved issue), the legitimacy of a birth certificate, car elevators, level of patriotism, religious beliefs, and college behavior. I don’t care what either of the presidential candidates did when they were 20, unless they murdered or tortured someone, nor am I concerned about their faith unless it majorly informs their decisions about our lives. I am majorly uninspired by most right now. I feel more informed by a very broad, fair recollection of events involving our economic collapse, our military involvement and much of our legislative policies after watching this very unusual, thought-provoking show.
It’d be amazing for our progress as a nation if we all got our heads out of our asses and began actually listening again. If we decided after we heard the facts rather than before we heard even simple opinions, the results would be astounding. We’re in a divisive mess, not anyone in particular’s fault, but the media, cable news like Fox and MSNBC in general, are not helping. Ratings feed their content and their audience and we’re sure to be fed a slop of negative, narrowly viewed topics to keep up reeling in anger and frustration. There is no way we can possibly, fully understand the complicated mess that is our government, so before we dismiss another simply because they think differently than us, we should open ourselves to understanding many different aspects and sides to an issue, and then make a sound decision that resonates most with our values while still respecting another’s.
My hope is people of all sides, but especially those so closely identified by either very conservative or very liberal values to take a step back, open their minds and ears and choose to expose themselves to different funnels of information and insight than normal. I won’t bother myself with it, it’s futile to care about another’s choices, but I can certainly hope for a more engaged, less volatile public. Our differences make us an interesting, cultured country. If we stopped caring about being right, or being better than another, we’d perhaps lead the world again in unified, progressive leadership voted for by a smart, logical electorate. Here’s hopin.
~Feel Stupefied To Be Alive~