Aaron Sorkin writes more fantasy than George R.R. Martin. The Newsroom is Sorkin’s latest. I watch SF and fantasy for entertainment first and if I get some insights into human nature and into a different world that’s a bonus. The season three opener of The Newsroom was useful in both these ways and also gave me some ideas for media activism.
These things happened in Sunday’s episode of The Newsroom:
- A TV news network learned from a major mistake made last season. They changed their behavior to maintain a higher professional standard and are trying to do better.
- People in the news division have values and responsibilities in their lives and profession other than the bottom line. They will act on these even at the cost of their ratings or job.
- The president of the network states that the news division’s autonomy can only be protected if they have good ratings. Rating are not separated from quality or ethical work. Ratings equals money. If they don’t maintain high ratings they will lose autonomy.
- It appears the news division’s recent failure impacted the parent companies’ financial projections. The parent company is now under some kind of attack from outside entities with unknown goals.
Which of these are fantasies, which are likely real life situations? It’s tempting to say one and two are fantasies and three and four are realities. But I think they can all be realities.
Emergency “Boston Bombing” Reporting vs. Regular Reporting
In this episode they deal with the Boston Bombing reporting and mention how Reddit members, Twitter and “Citizen Journalists” are covering the news. Of course there are digs at all including other networks, “We don’t go in based on tweets from witnesses we can’t talk to. What kind of credible news agency would do that?” cut to Fox News.
But this is Emergency Reporting where mistakes are often made. So they can blame the fog of breaking news, but getting it right does matter. Especially when someone’s life is put in danger because of a failure of the people working as journalists. People might forgive some mistakes in a breaking story, but what if it’s a regular occurrence?
What kind of mechanisms are in place for people at news organizations to do the right thing? Can we help them? Get other interested third parties to help? Can we get others to punish them for failing to do the right thing?
Who cares about Regulatory Violations and Journalism Ethical Failures?