Everyday, we are witnesses to the grandeur of the media, be it broadcast, print or online. It is regarded as one of the most influential institutions at work. People in this field have formidable powers to purvey knowledge, to mold minds, and to shape societies. And Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom takes us exactly where these powers are first carried out – in the newsroom.
The show’s first episode entitled We Just Decided To opens with Atlantis Cable Network’s News Night anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, alongside two other anchors of different shows answering students’ questions at a university forum. While the other two anchors give opposing answers based on opposing political beliefs, McAvoy demonstrates his well-known objective, nonpartisan self by giving genial, humorous remarks. When a female sophomore asks them to explain why America is the greatest country in the world, Will gives his usual witty answer. But when the host urges him to give a more serious answer, he loses his “objective” composure. He lets out an outburst of reasons why America is not the greatest anymore, therefore revealing the hidden bias and subjectivity in him.
When he returns to ACN three weeks after, he is welcomed with two bad news. First his executive producer, Don Keefer, played by Thomas Sadoski, and majority of his staff are leaving for another program. This is where Don frankly tells him that Will surely knows his stuff, but his degrading attitude towards his staff makes it hard for them to work with him. One of this degraded staff is Maggie Jordan, played by Alison Pill, Will’s assistant whose name Will can’t even remember. Despite being unappreciated by his boss, she sticks to him and does not join the departing staff. Second, Will’s boss, Charlie Skinner, played by Sam Waterston, hires for him a new executive producer in the persona of Mackenzie MacHale, played by Emily Mortimer. This is problematic for Will, since he and Mackenzie share an unknown conflicted past.
Following Mackenzie to ACN is Jim Harper, played by John Gallagher, Jr., Mackenzie’s senior producer. As he tells his worries about the stability of his job at ACN, he meets Maggie, completing the Don-Maggie-Jim love triangle. Incidentally, Don and Maggie are experiencing a little problem in their four-month relationship – Maggie wants Don to meet her parents, but Don thinks it’s a bit early for that. This makes Maggie doubt about how serious he is about her.
Then Will, returning to his office, is cornered by Mackenzie. The two’s egos clash in a very snappy and sharp way as she tries to inspire him by sharing his ideals about how journalism can change the society, about what Will can do as a journalist. She even quotes Don Quixote, but Will does not yield.
While the collision of egos continues in Will’s office, a news breaks outside – there is an oil spill in the Mexican Gulf. Don downplays the news, then he and Jim argue. After Jim receives calls from credible sources, he tries to make Don see the magnitude of the news, but Don points out that he still doesn’t work in ACN so his thoughts don’t matter.
Against Don’s wishes, Jim goes directly to Will to tell him about the news. After everyone fights over what to do with the information, they decide to reorient the evening news to accommodate the oil spill news. With few remaining persons in the newsroom, everyone gets down to business, scrambling in many places at once, doing everything that needs to be done.
The show goes on air, and there McAvoy proves to be a good improviser as he broadcasts live without a prompter. In the control room, Mackenzie delivers instructions to Will through a headset. They manage to pull it off – they got a statement from BP, and they interviewed a BP inspector via phone patch and uncovered something to the public – BP only has 56 inspectors for all 35,000 oil rigs....