Developing Story: The Newsroom is Back for its Third and Final Season

By Laura K. Garrison

The Newsroom returns for its final season!

On Sunday, November 9, HBO’s provocative show The Newsroom returned for its third and final season after an extended wait due to a scheduling conflict with creator and chief writer, Aaron Sorkin. As fans have waited with bated breath for the return of Will McAvoy and the News Night team, the series remains one of the most intelligent – and polarizing – shows currently on TV. At the end of its six-episode final season, the ultimate fate of Atlantis Cable News (ACN) is anybody’s guess. *SPOILER ALERT*

The Newsroom’s second season finale neatly tied up most of last year’s looming questions, with the exception of the ongoing fallout and lawsuits resulting from News Night’s falsified reports of the U.S. military’s use of sarin gas during a fictitious Operation Genoa. The finale, which took place on Election Day 2012 during coverage of President Obama’s reelection, saw Mac and Will getting engaged to be married, Don and Sloan finally admitting their feelings for one another, and Maggie struggling to cope in the wake of her disastrous trip to Uganda. When Will and Charlie attempt to resign, in response to the controversy over the fabricated Genoa story, mother and son duo Leona and Reese Lansing, CEO and president of Atlantis World Media respectively, reject their resignations and promise to fight through the lawsuits for the News Night team.

Season three fast-forwards several months to April 15, 2013, as Will and Mac argue over wedding details. Mac notices the explosions during the Boston Marathon on one of the TV monitors, and the newsroom kicks into high gear to collect credible information about the incident. Still smarting from their Genoa mishap, Mac is hesitant to report the breaking news until information is confirmed by law enforcement, though Jim’s girlfriend Hallie wants to use tweets from eyewitnesses as evidence of the bombing. The episode continues with coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the ensuing manhunt for the suspects, as the team struggles to balance their need to compete against other 24/7 news networks with their commitment to reporting the news accurately.

With all eyes set on Boston, ACN attempts to regain the trust of the public, although other events threaten the future of the network. Neal receives thousands of leaked government documents, some classified, from an unknown whistleblower about riots in fictional Equatorial Kundu that left 38, including three Americans, dead after a U.S. military contractor released disinformation about warring factions in the region. He asks his source for additional evidence which he receives, effectively committing a felony in the process. Sloan uncovers a plan by Reese’s half-siblings to potentially sell ACN amidst news that the network has fallen to number four, presumably behind CNN, MSNBC, and Fox. The episode closes with Will once again resigning, but not before proclaiming “I’m not so easily surrendering to the citizen journalists or citizen detectives” who complicated the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing.

Season three will (hopefully) answer some key questions. We don’t know what the end result of the lawsuit brought by Jerry Dantana (the journalist who doctored the tapes for the Genoa story) against ACN, nor do we know whether the network can gain back the creditability it lost. Neal could very well end up in prison, and Will may have actually resigned for real this time. Despite these threats to the future of ACN, The Newsroom makes clear its characters’ dedication to reporting the news in a respectable manner during an era of increasing infotainment. Despite this laudable goal, the News Night team must accept that news is a business and they are losing customers, as the decreasing number of viewers equals lost power and revenue. The episode takes shots at new media sources like reddit and BuzzFeed which helped promulgate the witch hunt against innocent people during the Boston Marathon bombing, highlighting the continued necessity of trusted news sources today.

In its final season, I hope The Newsroom takes steps to tone down the melodramatic love lives of its characters in favor of emphasizing the important but unseen work of those who staff broadcast newsrooms across the country. In this episode, Aaron Sorkin has set the stage for a fast-paced, complex third season, which promises formidable obstacles and tough decisions for the News Night team. And while the future of ACN seems bleak, The Newsroom seems prepared once again to make a convincing case for the enduring importance of quality journalism in our ever-expanding 21st century world.

The Newsroom airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO and HBO GO.

Laura is a senior at Barnard and Senior Editor for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Image courtesy of broadwayworld.com

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