Monday, November 17, 2014

The Newsroom #302 “Run” Where's the Truth

Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing
Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing
Where's the Truth

by Catherine Giordano

The theme for episode 2 of Season 3, titled “Run” of The Newsroom is truth, lying liars, and ethics. Very lofty! The problem with a theme on The Newsroom is the hit the viewer over the head with it.  A little subtlety would make the show more enjoyable. 

The Lansings
Where to begin?  Reese Lansing, president of ACN News and son of founder Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda) are the owners of the ACN Network which is just one piece of their media empire. The evil twins, children from Leona’s husband’s second marriage, will inherit 45% of CAN from their father’s estate on their 25th birthday which is just about a week away.  They are planning to sell their shares to another company which will then execute a hostile takeover. Leona offers to beat the competitor’s offer. No the truth will come out. Are the twins selling their shares for the money as they claim or are they doing it to punish their father’s first family? There’s also another truth involved. Leona doesn’t actually have the money. 

Maggie, a young producer for ACN is one her way back to Boston.  She is on a train. She overhears a government official discussing the EPA.  Realizing this will be a great scoop, Maggie slides down in her chair, out of the official’s sight and records the conversation.  When he is finished with the call, Maggie tells him that she has recorded it and asks for a comment.  He begs her not to use it even though she is legally able to do so. The official claims no fair because she hid herself.  Maggie decides that it would not be ethical to use the story. (What!  He could have seen her if he had just looked a little more carefully.)  The man offers to trade her story in place of the embarrassing one she has just recorded. She says no because that would be blackmail.  (What! That kind of horse-trading is done constantly between journalists and news reporters.) The man then gives her an advance copy of a report anyway. So Maggie will have a scoop after all.  See how things always work out when you play nice. 
Neal Sampat as played by Dev Patel
Neal Sampat as played by Dev Patel
Back in the newsroom things are not working out so well.  Neal, a reporter,  (played by Dev Patel) has obtained stolen documents from a source.  He will not reveal his source.  The news value of these documents is tremendous.  He has evidence of how a USA disinformation campaign resulted in the deaths of 38 innocent people. Neal stands firm to his journalist ethics and says he will go to prison if he has to because he will never reveal the source. 

Neal will be in the clear if ACN doesn’t air the story because the FBI will never know that he has the documents. But, if the FBI finds out, he could be charged with treason.    

There is a big ethics argument in the newsroom.  MacKenzee, the executive producer, says they must air the story. It is their moral duty to air the story.  Will, the anchor and finance of MacKenzee is more interested in protecting Neal.  Rebecca Halliday (played by Marcia Gay Hardin) is the lawyer for CAN.  She warns them of the dire consequences if the FBI learns about that CAN has the documents. 

Neal is all about ethics and he sneaks out of the room and calls the FBI and tells them about the documents.  Within the hour, an army of FBI agents has swarmed into the newsroom. confiscating the hard drives on all the computers. Will had previously told Neal that he needed to go into hiding. Neal said he wouldn’t run. Now, Neal forgets his high and mighty ethics and runs.  

Another ethical dilemma.  Hallie (played by Grace Gummer) is new to the staff of the newsroom. Jim, who she is “sleeping” with, is her boss.  Hallie sent out an inflammatory tweet on Will’s account which results in a mega-ton of bad publicity for ACN.  Hallie is ethical enough to admit that she did it.  She also tells the truth and says she did it for the “retweets.”  Haillee has to be fired.  Jim says, as her boss, it is his duty to be the one to fire her.  Charlie, the general manager, spares Jim this painful task and fires Hallie himself.  

Don and Sloan
And finally, a silly little romantic subplot.  Don, a producer and Sloan (the station’s money-honey”) have been having an affair.  Or something.  The way they try to figure out what it is they are having is to take turns lying to each other only so they can then pounce saying, “It was a test, and you failed the test.”  In the end, they admit that they have serious feelings for each other and decide they have to bring their affair into the open. 

Even the occasion for their story-telling is a lie. Don and Sloan are at a buffet restaurant and Sloan does not want to be seen in public going off her diet.  She makes Don pile up his plate and then surreptitiously stuffs the food into her own mouth.   

Liar! Liar!
Liar. Liar.  All kinds of lies.  All kinds of reasons for the lies.  Bam!  That’s the sound of my brain being crushed by the heavy-handed theme.
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