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Why I really enjoy The Newsroom on HBO

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I was looking forward to Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom for several months. Sure, I was a giant West Wing fan and one of the few it seems who enjoyed Studio 60. But what resonated most with me is although this series is set in the world of broadcast journalism – I’m a print/online guy – I could see myself in the middle of it all.

Although about 2.1 million viewers tuned in for Sunday’s premiere, the reviews aren’t all that positive. But the buzz is too great for that number to fall dramatically. I think the people who are on board will stay on board. I know I will.

Many of you know me as that social media guy, but despite my love for all things digital, I was a print guy. I started my career as a reporter at a small newspaper, moved to a bigger paper and became a copy editor and page designer. Then to an even bigger paper where I designed the front page during some pretty huge world events – 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. – and then to RedEye as a designer and editor.

So when I saw Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) get excited about the breaking news story only to be rebuffed by a more senior editor focused on “the alert still being yellow,” I was nodding my head so loudly I think the neighbors could hear it. That yellow thing, for those of you who don’t know, indicates the level of severity of the story as determined by the wire service. So a yellow alert basically means what you think – proceed with caution but probably nothing. Orange means it’s time to get serious and red means all hell is breaking loose.

That computer system they showed on the show? We had the same one during my days at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. When news of 9/11 broke that morning, it was a yellow alert. Plane crashes into World Trade Center. I will never forget that. In that case, we’re watching live coverage on a TV at my desk so we knew it wasn’t yellow, but that color-coded system always made me laugh.

Were there some things in the show that aren’t 100 percent accurate? Sure. It’s TV. It’s drama. It’s Aaron Sorkin. But what you saw for the most part was pretty spot on. I used to go toe to toe with this one editor because he thought every story was yellow. Somehow, I never got fired. But there was plenty of drama.

And at my old paper, yeah, there was a strange love story involving the editor and a reporter. And again, even though it was a print situation, it wasn’t all that different.

For those critics who said Sorkin took the West Wing and dropped it into a newsroom, I disagree. It has that kind of flow, but like the White House, a newsroom is certainly fast-paced and ever-changing. Things have to get done now or you may never get another chance.

While I hope I still get my fix of newsroom antics, I want to see how the characters develop. I think there’s definitely something there between Harper and associate producer Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill), despite Maggie’s devotion to Don Keefer (Thomas Sadowski). And we’ll see how Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) do with their history and how it translates to the working relationship.

The show is refreshing. Journalism is often portrayed so innacurately on TV and in movies. There’s that one where the copy editor gets her own huge office or the sports reporter files 1 story a week, never has to go into the office and still gets paid a giant salary. OK, that does exist. But anyhow …

What did you think of The Newsroom? I’d love to hear from you. The best way to reach me is to tweet me at @scottkleinberg. And this week I’m thinking of sending a few tweets during the show. The hashtag is #newsroom.

Photo: HBO

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