In the opening scene of new HBO series The Newsroom, fiery fictional cable news anchor Will McAvoy makes it clear that he’s sick of the bullshit.
He has had enough of partisan bickering. He wants stomp out the misconception that America is the greatest country in the world and that it’s his job to anchor the newscast of record. No fluff, just the facts, because that’s what this country needs.
“The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”
Written primarily by Aaron Sorkin, The Newsroom is anchored by McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels. Following a breakdown at a public event, McAvoy returns to work to find that his show has moved to an earlier timeslot on cable news channel ACN and is now produced by a former flame of his.
Parody account @WillMcAvoyACN cropped up on Twitter shortly after the season premiere in late June, and it’s pretty much a 140-character version of its on-screen counterpart. From a first-person perspective, the account wryly mocks the character, his “Sorkinisms,” and his take of current events while dropping the occasional F-bomb. It’s been an instant hit, racking up 4,000 followers in a matter of weeks.
“If I see one more so-called ‘news organization’ talk about the ‘zombie apocalypse’, I swear I am going to eat someone's face off,” tweeted McAvoy, typical of the disgust he harbors for the media.
The Daily Dot recently turned the tables on @WillMcAvoyACN, asking the anonymous user behind the account his thoughts on the state of cable news, the show’s divisive reviews and when he thinks birther Orly Taitz should be allowed on television.
Daily Dot: How are you and your team adjusting to the 8pm slot on ACN?
“I don't think a time slot gives you specific challenges. I think we would face the same challenges at 8pm as we would any other time of day. The bottom line is this: How do you get viewers in an environment where viewers have an attention span that is shorter than a sentence? How do you show a reasoned debate on television when the Internet has provided people with an opportunity to be around a closely knit group of strangers who share their exact beliefs.
“Birthers are always upset when they are dismissed by the so-called ‘mainstream media’ for being irrelevant, while anyone who takes an honest, objective view knows they are nuts. There are these groups for any type of belief imaginable. It's easy to think you're right when your beliefs are never questioned. So, how do you get people to watch a program that regularly challenges their beliefs?”
DD: Last week, your rival cable networks incorrectly reported parts of the Supreme Court's decision regarding the controversial health care law. Do you think it hurt their credibility in the long run?
“They would have to have credibility in order for it to ruin it. In the race to be first we've forgotten that it doesn't matter who's first if you're not right. If you understand how the bad reporting happened, it's akin to watching the first five minutes of 2001 and reporting that the movie is about a group of apes. It's just lazy.
“But more than that, what ruins their credibility is how they reported it after they got it right. It was all about ‘who won.’ This isn't a sporting event. This isn't an election. So many people have absolutely no idea what is actually in the PPACA law, as evidenced by the fact that all the major provisions of the law have support, yet the same polling data shows people want to repeal the law as a whole.”
DD: With CNN recording low ratings and Fox News and MSNBC becoming increasingly partisan, how would you assess the cable news landscape?
“It's a mess, isn't it? There's nothing wrong with what Fox News and MSNBC are doing, per se. The problem is that they, by and large, don't bring anyone to challenge their beliefs. It again turns into this giant echo chamber, which isn't good for either side. CNN, I think, more than the others, is guilty of bias to fairness, which is to say that if the House Republicans passed a resolution saying that pi had a value of 3, they would run a story that read 'Republicans and Democrats disagree with the value of pi.'
“That's not everyone on CNN, and there are some people on the network that do a great job, but not every argument deserves to be heard, and I think we are a bit guilty of turning the news into our own amusement hour, where we bring on the craziest viewpoints imaginable and present them as the left and the right of any given issue. Orly Taitz should never be allowed to appear on a news program, ever. I mean, unless she bites someone on the street, or something.”
DD: The Newsroom premiered to some divisive opinions ranging from the good to the bad. What are your thoughts on critics' reactions? How would you review your show?
“I think this show is meant to be divisive. That's not a bad thing, being divisive is not a bad thing. My problem is when people can't verbalize their reasons for disliking something. Some people will say to me ‘you suck’ and I'll ask them why and it absolutely stumps them. If you can't answer the why question, it's probably best that you don't speak. But that's where we are. No one challenges people's views anymore. You are entitled to an opinion, but I'm entitled to point out your opinion is crap.”
DD: What advice do you have to young journalists looking to enter the world of cable news journalism?
“Don't take out student loans. You'll never make enough money in cable news to pay them off.”
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