The media have been in a frenzy lately over the Sunday premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s latest show, The Newsroom. Some critics, such as Dan Rather, praised it as a "classic" worth of Citizen Kane. However, many have downplayed the left-wing, anti-American tone of the show's pilot, which includes one liberal lecture after another.
In the opening scene, new anchor Will MacAvoy (portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels) is asked by the moderator of a forum for journalism students at Northwestern about the reason that he does not expressly reveal his political leanings. When the moderator asks him if, “you feel the integrity of your broadcast would be compromised?” MacAvoy smugly says, “that sounds like a good answer, I’ll take it.” Seconds later, his tirade against America begins. [Video coming soon. MP3 audio here.]
MacAvoy's purported sense of balance goes out the window when an audience member asks him to state, in one sentence, why America is the greatest country in the world. He launches into a tirade, calling the young woman “a sorority girl” and telling her that "just in case" she "accidentally wanders into a voting booth one day" she should know that, "there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we're the greatest country in the world."
He tells him that she is, "without a doubt a member of the worst, period, generation, period, ever, period," and says "so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the f*** [expletive unbleeped in audio] you're talking about."
When the show shifts to the actual newsroom, MacAvoy chooses to cover an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and interviews a Haliburton spokesman.
Though the spokesman comes on the show just minutes after the network becomes aware of the disaster, MacAvoy asks him specific statistics about tests on a product made by the company and when the spokesman doesn't have the statistics on hand at the moment, he sarcastically asks him if they are, "buried in the middle of a wheat field."
At another point, the spokesman says that, "Haliburton's thoughts and prayers are with the missing crew and their families," MacAvoy sarcastically tells him, "of course they are, no one's thoughts and prayers are with the fire."
Instead of being reprimanded for such behavior, he is applauded by his staff, and even by the head of the news division (played by Sam Waterston) who tells him that "news anchors having an opinion is not a new phenomenon" and offers Edward R. Murrow's condemnation of Joseph McCarthy and Walter Cronkite's criticism of Vietnam as justification.
Journalists may not care about the show's liberal tilt, but it seems viewers do. The Newsroom pilot debuted to very mediocre ratings:
Compared with other HBO debuts, "The Newsroom" did OK. It fared better than the now-canceled "Luck," which netted 1.1 million total viewers when it premiered in January. But Sunday's "Newsroom" showing came in behind the April 2011 debut of "Game of Thrones" (which opened to 2.2 million and picked up more than a million additional viewers during its first repeat), and "Boardwalk Empire," which netted nearly 5 million viewers when it debuted in September 2010.