The Newsroom returns to UK screens for the last time

There’s something very poignant about starting the final season of The Newsroom. Not only is this the final series of the show, reduced to a mere six episodes, but also allegedly the end of Aaron Sorkin’s career in television. However, in a generation of television which is becoming increasingly commercialised, saturating quantity with a consistently falling quality, an early finish says a lot about Sorkin’s artistic integrity and his dogged determination to maintain a high quality in both directing and writing.

The final season begins six months after ACN news was tarnished by their incorrect reports on Operation: Genoa in season two, leaving the newsroom hesitant to begin reporting the Boston Marathon Bombings without reliable sources. The running theme of regaining the viewers’ trust is shown through the immense power of social networks in our current times, through which citizen journalism is increasingly prevalent. This ultimately becomes the moral question of the episode: to what extent can one rely on citizen journalism?

As The Newsroom recreates real-life events, the blatant failings of the media towards the Boston tragedy help to underline the many issues of citizen journalism.  Most notable is the Reddit users who attempted to solve the crime: a retrospective of the events which lead to the sister of the wrongly accused receiving a multitude of phone calls, from reporters (including Maggie) and people threatening to rape and kill her.

Other media failings are also addressed in the episode, including CNN incorrectly reporting the arrest of a suspect, and the New York Post’s picture of two men yet again wrongly accused of being suspects. These occurrences highlight how some media agencies report on such horrific events with a thirst for ratings and a disregard for the victims and falsely accused – an issue directly addressed by Sorkin in a line from the first episode: “we don’t do good TV, we do the news.”

This sense of maintaining morality in the news becomes clearest in the brilliant closing scene, which unites many of the main characters on the roof of the news building. With ACN news’s ratings down from second to fourth, Will is left conflicted between continuing to report the news in his and Mackenzie’s iconic way, or to return to his former style in order to save himself, Mackenzie and Charlie from the board. Neal’s finding of over 27,000 classified government reports is addressed in this scene too, making for an alarming realisation that he himself is now involved in espionage.

What was absent in this opening episode however, was character development. Apart from a touching scene showing Maggie’s rise from the horrors of season 2, we are only given a very brief discussion of Mackenzie and Will’s wedding before all hell breaks loose. What we do get, however, is an action packed first episode, reminding viewers of the moral implications of The Newsroom, which will undoubtedly come into question in the final five episodes.

 David Robinson

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