By Julia Schatz, Account Supervisor
The HBO series Newsroom aired the season 3 premiere on Sunday. The episode covered the Boston Marathon Bombing from April 2013. As this episode depicts, the media was a mess when these bombings occurred – CNN inaccurately reported an arrest and had to retract the story with major news outlets and the public who were both heavily relying on social media like Twitter for information.
The episode emphasizes a theme seen throughout the entire series: how the newsroom works is changing in the Internet/social media age. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote this episode, reminds us that while social media is a great source for breaking news, we must remember that it is not a confirmed source and that inaccurate information can spread like wildfire on social media and news sources.
One particular scene that stood out to me was during a staff meeting, the team breaks down the timeline of events that led to the initial misidentifying of the Boston Bombing suspects. Reddit, Buzzfeed, Twitter, and the like are all identified as playing a role in this very public mistaken blame. This scene highlights the power and danger of “citizen journalism” that plays such a large role in the media today.
The episode calls out how such citizen journalism can put innocent lives in danger and can make the jobs of police, investigators, government, etc. much harder during a crisis. While citizen journalism has forced these agencies to be more accountable and transparent, when a national crisis is unfolding, it can also greatly hinder their ability to do their job effectively and efficiently.
The episode ends with a monologue from the frustrated main character, Will McAvoy: “You know who did great this week? The police. The FBI. The DOJ. Homeland Security. In less than 100 hours, they found two needles in a haystack the size of the world. You know who sucked? Everybody else. Two times in 24 hours, law enforcement officials had to publicly disclose information before they wanted to because either a paper or Web site put someone’s life in danger. So I’m not so easily surrendering to citizen journalists or citizen detectives.”