“The Newsroom” Is a Sirloin Steak Dress

The Newsroom I blogged last week about HBO’s “The Newsroom” and how the show debuted at an opportune time – soon after the Gallup Poll showed Americans’ confidence in TV News at a all-time low. There is now nowhere for the credibility of TV journalism to go but up, and if it does rise in future polls, you can bet in the prediction market that “The Newsroom” creator and writer Aaron Sorkin’s price will go up.

Sorkin’s credibility may go up among those in the political center and left of center, but the credibility of TV News is not likely to budge for several reasons:

  • The primary viewers of TV News (65+) are dying off, and just about the only advertisers in a non-election year that want to reach these aging viewers are pharmaceutical marketers.
  • In spite of the massive infusion of money during this election year, the broadcast and cable news providers – and especially local TV stations – will almost certainly not invest in improving their news product, but will take the money to boost their bottom lines during these recession years and in the face of stockholder demands.
  • In their desperation to turn around the overall news ratings decline trend (a virtually impossible task), news providers will become more partisan on the right and left to attract a diminishing core of extremists at both ends of the political spectrum.
  • This drift to extreme positions will turn off younger viewers, whom Jack Myers labels as Internet Pioneers in his excellent book Hooked Up, furthering the decline of news ratings as more and more Internet Pioneers and those under 55 abandon TV News for instant updates on Google News, CNN.com, Twitter and Facebook.

As such, I think Aaron Sorkin is trying to keep afloat a journalism Titanic. His ego and idealism will carry him through at least two seasons of “The Newsroom” (HBO has renewed for a second season), but it will not survive based on its high-minded journalistic idealism, which Charles Pierce in an online Esquire blog claimed was a world that never was, a world that exists only in “what Sorkin imagines it once was.”

“The Newsroom’s” ultimate success will be determined by essentially the same speculations that make “Jersey Shore” a hit. Who will wind up sleeping with whom?

Lady Gaga wrapped a cute body in a sirloin steak dress to get attention. Aaron Sorkin is wrapping non-ratings-driven journalistic integrity in a dress of sexual tensions to get attention, and he’s getting it. But “The Newsroom” will not change TV journalism. Like Lady Gaga’s sirloin steak dress, integrity-driven TV journalism will be cooked.