CNN's Miserable Ratings Provide Some Insight into the Relevance of Aaron Sorkin's 'Newsroom'

06.27.12 6 years ago 38 Comments

Aaron Sorkin is taking a beating this week, and it’s probably a well-deserved one. He is, as Cajun Boy writes, a dick of staggering proportions. There’s some part in most of us that wants to stub a cigarette out on his superior goddamn face. His new show is not faring well at all with critics, although I appreciated and enjoyed the pilot, and as I mentioned on Twitter, I would appreciate the “Newsroom” reviews calling Sorkin smug and sanctimonious more if the critics weren’t so smug and sanctimonious about it. There seems to be a race out there by some critics to see who can out-Sorkin Sorkin while reviewing Sorkin’s show. It’s pathetic.

What’s perhaps missing in all the copy devoted to Sorkin’s new show, however, is the importance of what Sorkin is trying to say (reasonable minds can differ on the success of relaying that message), and that’s that news journalism today, well, it blows. Obviously, with 24-hour news networks, with the Internet, and Twitter and Facebook, and f**king push notifications on our phone, news information has never been easier to consume. Honestly, it would take a Herculean effort of obstinance to remain as dumb and uninformed as a lot of people somehow manage to be.

The problem is not with the access and availability of news; it’s the way it’s packaged, force-fed with an agenda attached. People don’t want objectivity in the news; they want their news loaded with an opinion with which they can agree. Take the Supreme Court decision on Arizona’s immigration law, a clear slaughtering of the statute that was nevertheless heralded as a defeat of Obama by Fox News. Because that’s what Fox News viewers wanted to hear. And it’s no better for the left. If Obama’s health care law is struck down tomorrow, I’m sure that MSNBC will find a way to spin it in a positive light for their viewers. They’re not interested in reporting the news; they’re interested in making their viewership happy even if that means bending the truth or making sh*t up.

Meanwhile, CNN — poor dull, bland, CNN with its half-hearted devotion to objectivity — is getting massacred in the ratings. This month, CNN registered its lowest ratings in over 20 years. It’s down 35 percent from last year alone, averaging less than half a million viewers during prime-time (compared to the 1.7 million viewers Fox News receives during prime time). Viewers don’t want bland newsmen like John King (whose primetime show was just cancelled); they want PERSONALITIES. Loud, obnoxious, overbearing, yell-y PERSONALITIES that agree with them. We don’t watch the news to stay informed; we watch the news to have our opinions validated.

If Edward Murrow were alive today, he’d be last in the ratings. Hell, so would Tom Brokaw because Tom Brokaw didn’t yell. He was reasonable, and you know what? Television viewers hate reason, unless of course, reason on that particular day aligns with their political beliefs. And whether you like “Newsroom” or not, hate Sorkin or not, I’m glad that someone is at least addressing the problems with the news media. Who else is going to do it? The news media? They’re too busy fighting for ratings.

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