Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, who ultimately resigned in disgrace for airing an attack piece on George W. Bush using phony documents, loves the new HBO show Newsroom and explained why in a review for Gawker. With no sense of irony, he praised, "I especially liked the emphasis on the necessity of having sources and doing real reporting (maybe not enough emphasis on this to satisfy me.)"
Rather added, "Also, the depiction of when to go with a story, when and what to lead with on a newscast is good." The journalist, who has been exiled to HD Net, went so far as to compare the show to Citizen Kane (a film often ranked as the greatest movie of all time). Rather gushed, "[Newsroom] has the potential to become a classic."
Perhaps one reason that Rather likes Newsroom so much is that Aaron Sorkin, the liberal/writer creator, initially exonerated him in the pages of the pilot script.
In another scene McCallister responds to pressure from his boss, UBS News president Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston)
Will: Charlie, I can’t go after Halliburton and miss.
Charlie: Oh report the goddam news, Will.
Will: You remember a guy named Dan Rather?
Charlie: Dan got it right.
That exchange was ultimately cut from broadcast. Rather particularly liked the show's depiction of journalism as a fight for truth:
There is a battle for the soul of the craft that goes on daily now in virtually every newsroom in the country. It's a fight that matters, not just for journalists but for the country. It centers on whether news reporting is to be considered and practiced—to any significant degree, even a little—as a public service, in the public interest ,or is to exsist solely as just another money-making operation for owners of news outlets.
As the Newsroom character MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) says, in challenging the anchorman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) to be a crusader for quality journalism, "There is nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate. When there is no information or, much worse, wrong information, it can lead to calamitous decisions that clobber any attempts at vigorous debate."
This is the battle being lost in almost every newsroom, in every place around the world. Ratings (or circulation), demographics, and profits rule. Any talk of the public interest or of doing quality journalism of integrity with guts is considered passé.
Newsroom, remember, is a program that attacks the Tea Party and features an anti-American rant. In the pilot Jeff Daniels' character complained, "America is not the greatest country in the world anymore."
The oddest moment in the review came when Rather dismissed critics of Newsroom this way: "Maybe it's because they are print people." Of course, non-print reporter Jake Tapper, the senior White House correspondent for ABC News, also panned the program.
The full Gawker review can be found here.