Newsroom Premiere Recap: Boston, Bridesmaids and ACN's Brutal Future

The Newsroom Season 3 premiere recap

Attention Twittersphere, Reddit users and/or those who dare convey information about current events without the imprimatur of an established media organization behind them: Will McAvoy thinks you’re a joke.

Anyone who’s casually scrolled through any form of social media knows that Will’s mindset — put forth in abundance in The Newsroom‘s Season 3 premiere — isn’t without some merit. The anonymity and speed of the Internet lends itself to the quick dissemination of false information. Sometimes, that’s relatively harmless (seriously, guys, Steve from Blue’s Clues is fine). Other times, as is made clear in this week’s episode, those virtual pitchforks and torches can lead to some very bad situations.

All I’m saying is, Will and the rest of the Atlantis Cable News gang might benefit from taking a deep breath, realizing that the newsgathering environment they so long for hasn’t existed in years and using the tools at their disposal — yes, even Twitter, as a jumping-off point — to tell stories that serve their viewers just as well as the old-fashioned ones did. News nerd rant over: Let’s take a look at what took place in “Boston.”

THE MARATHON BEGINS | We pick up with Will and Mac in his office, discussing their upcoming wedding. She wants nine (!) bridesmaids, one of whom is ABC anchor Diane Sawyer; she exhorts him to find a few more friends — maybe NBC’s Brian Williams? —  to be groomsmen so the wedding party will have equal dudes and ladies. He gives her a hard time, but there’s no teeth in it; this Will is a far happier man than we saw in seasons past. (Thank God.)

Their planning is interrupted when Mac notices something odd on the video feed coming from ACN’s Boston affiliate: As we watch the tape along with her and Will, we realize it’s the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line.

Cue the yelling, running around and phone calls that mark every major news event in the ACN newsroom. Don’s at jury duty, but as soon as he gets wind of what’s going on, he goes from normal to obnoxious in 15 seconds and convinces the lawyers and judge to release him. (Side note: As someone who has served jury duty in nobody-gets-outta-it Manhattan, I can attest that this is perhaps the most flagrant alteration of reality that takes place in the entire episode.)

NEWS NIGHT NOW | Maggie — back to looking like her Season 1 self — is working out in the company gym when the text comes in, and before she knows it, she’s heading to Boston as Elliot’s field producer. (Side note: The woman is a proven mess with 1) probable post-traumatic stress disorder and 2) zero experience working a breaking news situation on the ground — of course Jim thinks she’s the best one for the job!)

While we’re on the subject of Harper, he’s living with Vassar snob Hallie, and she apparently works at ACN now. Her job seems to involve being on Twitter all day, because she’s really angry when she has a lot of leads and info about what’s going on in Boston, but none of the senior staff care unless they can get confirmation from an official source like the police or fire departments.

Here’s my first beef with Newsroom‘s anti-citizen journalism stance. I understand not taking a tweet at face value, but in this case, the network has video of the event as it unfolded. It definitely happened, guys. I also understand waiting for an official source to confirm the cause of the blast — rather than pontificating, speculating and generally freaking everyone out — but why wait so long to go to air with the story? As it turns out, the fact that they’re so late to cover Boston is the least of ACN’s problems. But we’ll get to that in a few.

BEANTOWN BEATS | Anyone who was glued to their TVs for those four days in April 2013 knows the basics of what went down, and a lot of it is super scary and/or sad, so let’s skip it and focus on the News Night staff (and friends). Will tries to give a pep talk, but phrases like, “We don’t do good TV, we do the news,” don’t incite his team to greatness. Charlie shows him how it’s done later, when a mistake by CNN’s John King leads to a big reporting error that the rival network then has to retract. “He got knocked down!” Charlie says, shutting down the cheering that breaks out in the ACN newsroom. “We didn’t get taller.” Also, guys, Genoa was like five minutes ago. Let’s chill with the journalistic superiority, OK?

Later on, Maggie gets her big moment when Elliot accidentally eats some walnuts — he’s allergic — and his tongue swells, meaning she has to go in front of the camera to do his live hit. Live TV is ridiculously difficult to do well, and there is absolutely no way that she would’ve nailed the segment the way she does, but whatever. Maybe the LBD Mac lent her is magic? I almost don’t care, so happy am I that Maggie is finally not screwing up. Back in the New York control room, Charlie muses, “Is it just me, or did she age 10 years this week?” Jim is nearly crying with pride and can’t really respond. Um, Hallie? You might not wanna unpack so fast.

Also of note: Will and Mac have a new place, because apparently his palatial, glassed-in apartment that’s bigger than the TVLine offices was just too small for two people… Elliot, despite having grown up in or near Boston, pronounces Watertown “Waterton,” which irks this Northeastern grad to no end… And Don’s pedantic walk-through of all the ways social media is a terrible, horrible, very bad thing — complete with white board — felt like overkill to me. (If you disagree, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.)

SLOAN’S ON THE CASE | Elsewhere in the 24-hour news cycle, Sloan and Don are kinda-sorta together, but she’s only got eyes for the shiny new Bloomberg terminal the cable channel installed in her office. Her machine tells her many things, including the puzzling news that even though she knows Atlantis World Media didn’t make its projected quarterly grown — which should have taken a hit on its stock — shares of AWM are trading up. Ms. Sabbith pairs that information with what Reese tells her earlier in the episode — his twin half-siblings Randy and Blair are in town for their upcoming 25th birthday, upon which they will inherit a significant portion of the company — and she rushes up to the terrace and interrupts an important meeting Reese is having with Will & Co.

“You went to Wharton, Reese. Wake the f—k up!” she shouts at him. “You’re in the middle of a hostile takeover.” God, I missed Sloan.The Newsroom Season 3 Premiere Recap

I SPY | That conversation into which Sloan barges is a biggie: Will, Mac and Charlie have just realized that Neal did a really bad thing.

It went down like this: Someone contacted him anonymously, told him to buy a computer that had never been connected to the Internet — a purchase for which Will provided the credit card — and left a flash drive holding thousands of classified documents for him in the toilet tank in a restaurant men’s room.

Some of the stolen government documents prove that the United States Special Operations Command hired a PR team to foment unrest in a West African republic called Equatorial Kundu. (Side note: Nice West Wing callback, Sorkie!) Neal’s mistake was to ask the source for more documents to prove he or she was legit, and then to tell the source how to transfer them.

“You conspired to commit espionage,” Charlie says, incredulously, and Will suggests that they get ACN counsel Rebecca Halliday on the line — pronto.

Now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere via the poll below, then hit the comments with your thoughts!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. B says:

    Loved it! Sad it is only 6 episodes, maybe Sorkin will be convinced to do more?

    • Rook says:

      Sadly, I don’t think there will be more episodes. I don’t understand why it got cancelled, its a good with and the rating are better than some of the other shows on HBO.

      • S. says:

        It didn’t get cancelled. Sorkin asked to stop. He doesn’t wanna do any more. Right now he’s claiming he might not do any more tv. I’ll believe that when I see it. Point being though, he’s definitely not doing any more episodes of The Newsroom. It doesn’t sound like that was HBO’s decision.

  2. kate says:

    I liked it. sad this show is going away. it’s so fast, and I’ll miss having to focus on my programming.

  3. MA says:

    Oh wow, an internet recapper blasts The Newsroom? Shocker. This episode was great. Can’t wait to see what happens to Will, Mac, and the gang.

    • S. says:

      Oh wow, someone uses term “internet recapper” as if the term indicates on its face an incorrect opinion. Shocker.

      • MA says:

        No, actually. I used it to indicate cliche. As in, OF COURSE the entertainment media blasts this show. The rest of my opinion? Because it makes the entertainment media look bad. An opinion is just that; it belongs to the writer and can’t be inherently correct or incorrect. By all means disagree with me, but at least do it about what I’m really saying.

  4. Sean says:

    I think the part about new media and citizen journalism was appropriate. It contrasted Twitter being first with the news of the Boston Bombing, ahead of the mainstream media, with Reddit being wrong with the IDing of the suspects( even though it all was started by an erroneous NY Post article ). I believe the point was to show the divide isn’t between new vs. old, it is between good journalism and bad.

    • mookie311 says:

      bingo. couldn’t have said it better. i am a journalist, and i followed reddit and twitter like a hawk the entire night of the watertown stuff. i was horrified the whole way through. i’m young enough to know the value of social media in obtaining information. the problem isn’t usually how you GET the information (except poor neal, he’s screwed), it’s knowing what to do with it.

      you can’t just take the word of some total stranger walking down the street and immediately turn around and report it as news. no one does that. (well, no one with even a shred of credibility). twitter is, essentially, a few million total strangers walking down the street.

    • rowan77 says:

      I agree as well. The problem that seems to have sprouted since now anyone with a blog or twitter feed can be considered a journalist is that fact checking seems to have gone out the window. When I was in college and took a journalism course we were told we needed a total of three sources to consider something factual enough to report. Three. As was illustrated in this episode, news outlets are willing to report something as a fact without any confirmation – just so they can get the “news” out before anyone else. So while I get Kimberly’s annoyance that Sorkin is dismissing social media as a source, he’s not talking about entertainment reporting. He’s talking about reporting straight breaking news – and for that type of reporting any old Twitterer/Reddit user/author of Joe Blow’s Blog cannot be considered a reliable news source. There have to be standards.

    • MA says:

      I also agree. The internet has been both good and bad in terms of its effect on the media. The increased number of mobs of people who now have the power to ruin lives as they see fit is definitely one of the negatives. I suspect that journalists still have corroboration standards (the point of the reaction of the characters on the show), but the mob doesn’t.

  5. TAG says:

    All the characters on this show sound the same. They speak the same dialogue. They are clones of each other. They all are smarter than Einstein. Is this how the media elite views itself and also views the rest of us as not being quite good enough

    • Abby says:

      Can we file this under season one worthy complaints? If you feel this way about this show – which has always been written the way you claim – why are you still watching three years later if not just to complain?

  6. erica says:

    I know every journalist ever complains about The Newsroom, but IMHO, it’s still one of the better shows on television right now. I will admit though, I was so relieved to see Maggie do something well for once that I nearly sobbed.

    On the downside, only five episodes left for me to get my Season 1, Episode 1 dream of Jim & Maggie to actually be a thing AND only five episodes left of Sloan.

  7. JMFan says:

    Loved IT!!! SO Exciting!

  8. Billie says:

    Maybe getting a re-capper who actually likes this show would be a good idea? The tone in this recap makes it seem like someone strapped this poor re-capper to a chair with duct tape and forced them to watch The Newsroom despite adamant protests.
    Nowhere in this episode did they say that all social media/citizen journalism is bad. They just made the case that something like the Boston marathon bombings was not the appropriate place for it.
    And everything else that got raked over the coals was just evidence that this is a TV show – something that no television show should ever be penalized for.
    Seriously. Given the fact that this show has tons of fans who are sad to see it disappearing in 5 short episodes – if you really can’t find a re-capper who enjoys this one – maybe outsource it?

    • Coal says:

      Unfortunately you are not going to find any pleasant tone of the show from any new media journalist. That don’t like how the show portrays them.

    • S. says:

      On what planet is loving the show a requirement to recap it? Maybe it’s not lovable all the time. Maybe there are flaws and things worth criticizing. Kimberly does an excellent job on other shows. It’s not her, it’s the program. You’re gonna have to accept that the emperor has no clothes here. If you have the credentials that they’d accept YOUR recapping it, then by all means submit them. That’s really the only way to change the situation. It has nothing to do with “the media” hating this show. If anybody at TVLine had said “oh please oh please lemme recap The Newsroom” I bet they would’ve let them. It’s just not beloved by that many people. Not even Sorkin or he wouldn’t have had to be begged into doing a S3.

  9. Jen says:

    So happy to find Newsroom back in fine form tonight. I think the review misses the commentary Sorkin was trying to make re: social media. Of course ACN knew there was an explosion, but their decision to wait to confirm it was a bomb through verified sources and not because hundreds of Twitter posts said it was is juxtaposed nicely later with the Reddit manhunt showing how viral information, while swift and plentiful, does not always equal right. It’s the responsibility of journalists to provide fact when it’s available despite the public’s insistence on immediacy. That said, despite this review, I felt the show picked up from hiatus nicely with rich dialogue and a nice cadence of tension and humor, while also planting seeds for this season’s character and overarching story arc. The camera work felt oddly out of sync — some very strange zooms in the middle of scenes — but this was the Newsroom I’ve been waiting a year to have back!

  10. christopher bee says:

    Loved it, loved it, loved it. Finally theve got the teeth and the finesse of the first Series back. God, I will miss the Newsroom staff dearly.

  11. Fido says:

    Sloan makes it awesome. :)

  12. Tom says:

    As someone who was in Boston at the marathon when this all happened…it left a bad taste in my mouth. Maybe I just shouldn’t have watched it at all.

    • Erica says:

      Really? I’m surprised a bit that you say that. It didn’t have the emotional impact for sure of the 9/11 episode from season 1. However, I was ALSO at the marathon during it and I thought it was nice that they opted to include it in the season considering how short it is.

  13. Abby says:

    Kim, I’m a news nerd, too, but I still think Sorkin’s point that there’s no room in news for stories told so quickly they get their facts wrong is bang on. Whether news has changed or not. There’s way too much leeway in your rant for cyber-sleuths, who were essentially guilty or slander and defamation but got away with it hiding behind an IP and joining a self-righteous mob.

    Okay MY rant’s over. I enjoyed the first episode and I like that Sorkin has heard the legitimate issues people have had with his writing (writing Maggie so poorly, now she gets a story arc that ideally erases every fans mumbling that girl would have been fired for the fails she constantly had if shed been working AM radio news in Peoria, let alone a national newscast!) and writing of the show in general (third act, climbing down from the tree) and is hopefully setting up a final season that satisfies the fans. Unfortunately, the nature of the show is that it breeds debate and difference of opinion simply by centering on that world. So it will never please everyone totally but, so far, I’m intrigued.

    Final observation: I think I like Reese more because now I just see Danny, not because he’s finally being written with a soul.

  14. Coal says:

    Those who expected an unbiased, factual recap free of snide remarks from the very sort of “reporting” which the show itself mocks you are fooling yourself. The don’t like Sorkin bashing them so they are bashing back.

    • MA says:

      And what’s ironic is that in their unbalanced bashing back, they make Sorkin’s point better than (I suspect) he ever intended.

  15. kate jones says:

    Thank you! I am so glad someone else was annoyed at the mispronunciation of Watertown. Massachusetts has so many names that are not pronounced as spelled. Watertown isn’t one of them!

  16. Cate says:

    I am fine with Maggie going to Boston. Yeah, there were probably people a hell of a lot more qualified somewhere at ACN. But none of them were characters that had been introduced previously. (Except maybe Jim. Why didn’t Jim go again?)

    As for how hard it is to get live TV right. Again: It’s a tv show.

    I don’t see people complaining in recaps about all the lawyerly, doctorly, etc etc crap people miracuclously get right on the first try.

    She’s been up-close for a while, she knows her stuff (in theory). It wasn’t that much of a stretch for her to get it right. (In TV land).

    As for the social media aspect… Sorkin’s loved to hate on the internet for a while. (Dating all the way back to The West Wing at the very least). But I think they weren’t completely unfair here. Whatshername was complaining about nobody doing anything despite the gazillion tweets, pics, videos. And them twiddeling their thumbs while they waited for confirmation from ‘official’ sources *did* hurt them in the end.

    • Billie says:

      It’s also worth noting that in the season 2 finale Maggie had that short red hair. Her hair is blonde and past her chin now so I think it’s safe to say that a decent amount of time has passed – and her talking to Lisa in the season 2 finale was, I think, meant to symbolize the start of Maggie trying to get better and overcome her PTSD. It’s not unreasonable to think that in the amount of time it took her to grow her hair out she’s been coping fairly well with her PTSD.

      • H says:

        We do know that time has passed, given that the season 2 finale was election night ( early November 2012) and the Boston bombings were April 15 2013. So Genoa wasn’t yesterday either.

  17. Paul says:

    Yep, I can tell exactly where they’re going with this takeover plot…

    It all ties into the government documents.

    Mac is going to go for a drink across the street, and there’ll be a guy from S.H.I.E.L.D. asking if she’s ever heard of Quo Exsequor. She won’t know what it means, but Jeremy… er I mean Neil will tell her it means “To Avenge”. Then Benson will buy Sam Waterson a scotch, Josh Charles will show up, and everybody will be glad he’s not actually dead, especially Peter Krause, who’s just glad to have a break from his crazy family! ;)

    (Sports Night viewers will get that, to the rest, I apologize, and also encourage you to check out Sports Night!)