After three episodes of The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin's latest HBO drama, what is the verdict?
As professionals (and parents of teenagers) who have been multitasking for almost three decades, something my wife and I always look for in shows about organizations is how they portray the relationships among the characters, as well as how the characters integrate their work and personal lives. We are enjoying the character development in The Newsroom a lot, but we have yet to see whether people have a life outside of work. Millennials want careers that comport with their lifestyles, and the lack of work-life integration portrayed in the show is clearly unsustainable. It will be interesting to see how this gets addressed in future episodes.
Here’s what we do love so far about the show:
1) The Great Debates:
Is the United States the greatest country in the world? If not, who’s responsible, and what will it take for us to get there again? Who decides what’s news? Who even gets to be part of the debates? The show is both entertaining and thought-provoking for my family, which includes two very opinionated teenagers. As our parents did with us, we’ve encouraged our children to watch and read the news so people will listen to them as they grow up, not only their peers, but also those who are in positions of authority.
2) Healthy Relationships Matter, Including Those at Work:
Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) and MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) have a past, and like all pasts, there are some dark aspects. How they will get past them to craft a positive partnership matters not only to these two, but also to everyone who depends on them. They are, for better or worse, the slightly dysfunctional parents of their millennial subordinates, and when they push each other to be their best, everyone benefits. As the “grandfather,” Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) protects Will, MacKenzie, and the news team from the ever-present demands by ACN corporate for higher ratings.
The millennials also show the importance of healthy relationships. Jim Harper (John Gallagher, Jr.) does a great job of caring for Margaret, even using his experiences in Afghanistan to help her with a panic attack she suffers in the third episode and encouraging her to work on her relationship with her boyfriend Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) even as he begins to have feelings for her. Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) also continues to mentor Jim on his efforts to befriend Margaret, but frankly, I think Margaret should just dump Don once and for all.
3) Everyone Can Make a Difference for Good
Millennials and their sometimes-wiser bosses are all major contributors, and what everyone does critically affects whether the news gets delivered. After one of our students recently critiqued something in class, we thanked him for his comments and then asked him how he would improve it. He replied that nobody had ever asked him for his positive suggestions on how to improve it. He was used to critiquing without being required to contribute. Here, the millennials are not only asked, but relied on for their ideas and contributions.