Reclaiming the 4th Estate

Eight years ago, the US looked very different. Back in August 2012 we were three months short of reelecting President Barack Obama, the Tea Party was a thing, and we weren’t as polarized a country as we are now. The first season of HBO’s The Newsroom, was without a doubt, the best one of the shows 3 Season, 25 episode run. It’s been almost 8 years since the premiere episode “We Just Decided To” – but rewatching it made me long for honest discourse about what the media’s role has historically been and its potential. In the opening scene, Jeff Daniel’s character Will McAvoy has the audacity to candidly answer a question about American greatness, backed with statistics, and delivered with passion.

Full disclosure – I went to Journalism school, which is one of many reasons I love this show. You don’t go into media for the money – and the only one raking it in is the shows’s star. But so many of the work-related elements of this show are things that journalism students are taught to do. And honestly, that’s where there’s a disconnect with citizen journalism – not finding the full story, not vetting your story, and not having multiple sources that confirm your narrative. Ultimately though, the staff at the fictional ACN Newsroom are invested in practicing exceptional journalism, even when they don’t get it right.

Without a doubt, this show isn’t for everyone. If you’re predisposed to mistrust the media, then I’d say don’t even bother. This is an idealist show, written by and for idealists – who believe in the First Amendment as strongly as those who believe in the second. In the second episode, Emily Mortimer’s Mackenzie McHal’s idea to restructure the show is to change the show’s format, cater to an audience that’s smart, and to present all sides of an argument. She references the 4th Estate – the press as a check on government. That’s right – not “fake news”, not the enemy of government, but a check on authority. One that was important enough for the founders to place it as part of the first amendment.

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