Wednesday, July 24, 2013

HBO’s Newsroom “The Genoa Tip” #12

by Catherine Giordano

Use Your Words

During HBO’s The Newsroom, episode 12, airing on July 21, 2013, Mackenzie McHale, throws a drink in Will McAvoy’s face. She walks into the bar where he is sitting alone having a drink, and for no reason that I can discern, she grabs his drink and throws it in his face. (This the “not-again” moment of the week and a nice variation on Mackenzie’s habit of smacking people.) An exasperated Will shouts at her, “Use your words!” 
There are plenty of words on The Newsroom, and they are great words as long as the words are about the news. The show does a wonderful job of exploring issues and giving us an understanding about how news is covered on TV. The problem is the words put into the characters’ mouths when they are talking about their personal lives.

Margaret is continuously immature, inappropriate, and implausible. Last season, Margaret had a public meltdown in the streets, screaming out the details of her life. It was captured on video and has now been posted to YouTube. Margaret’s boyfriend sees it and asks her to move out of his apartment. In real life, she would probably lose her job too. Instead, a co-worker, Sloan, who is only slightly less addle-brained than Margaret, helps Margaret track down the woman who posted the video and try to bribe and/or intimidate the her into taking it down. They are not successful.

However, the part of the show that dealt with the news was beautifully done. The episode dealt with the Troy Davis execution, the beginning of the Occupy movement, and the killing by drone of Anwar Al Awaki. The issues are discussed and the show explores how the news should cover stories like these. The Troy Davis story is particularly well done---you must see this episode just for this part of the show.

There is also a fictional news story (at least I think it is fiction) about a top secret government covert action named “Genoa”. The news team is investigating a tip concerning the use of sarin gas in Pakistan to take out a suspected terrorist which killed many civilians in the process. It fits in nicely with the true drone story because it makes us think: “Is this where we are heading? How far will the United States go to take out terrorists in the Middle East?

I have some advice for the show-runners. Drop all the story lines that deal with the personal lives of the characters. Only show us the characters in their professional roles (acting professionally, please). Remind us about the recent important news stories and the issues around them, but don’t be so heavy-handed with the specifying.  Give us the behind-the-scenes glimpses into how a news show operates. In other words, use your words to give us good stories that inform us and make us think.
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