‘The Newsroom’ and ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ 2.0

It’s been an exciting week in journalism. The same week that Jeff Daniels and Emily Mortimer’s characters on HBO’s The Newsroom decided to change the way news was reported in the show’s premiere episode, the real media became the news after flubbing the coverage of the Supreme Court’s health care ruling. I’m looking at you, CNN and Fox News.

One look at my Twitter feed on June 28 showed that teasing jokes about CNN and Fox may have equaled those about the court ruling most of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) constitutional.

Enough has been said about how embarrassing, disappointing and pathetic it is for two (once?)credible news organizations to make such a gaffe – many of those tweets made their way onto Buzzfeed’s “25 Funniest ObamaCare Tweets.” So I won’t add to the CNN/Fox jokes, though I did love this one:

Instead, I’ll just say this: the Twitter age is demanding instant news from these organizations that are, at the same time, failing to balance business and journalism. Journalists are human beings. I’m not trying to justify what happened, but when we as readers value speed over truth and context, there is bound to be human error. That’s what we saw last Thursday. Sadly, it wouldn’t surprise me if these major flubs become even more common. In a competitive industry where speed and accuracy (two values that hardly go hand-in-hand) are key, smaller newsrooms won’t lead to success. Until readers, owners and advertisers realize the importance of a journalist’s work and find a way to balance the need to make money with the need for accurate information, there won’t be any improvement.

Which brings me to The Newsroom – HBO’s newest drama, by The West Wing‘s Aaron Sorkin, challenging the American media and its audience to be better. It seems fitting considering the state of the news industry that Sorkin would write a show about the behind-the-scenes drama at a cable news channel. The Newsroom isn’t perfect or realistic or unbiased, and probably won’t have much of an impact on the media or the electorate, but maybe watching an idealistic take on the journalism industry will, at least, remind us all of the importance of good reporting, and for those of us in the industry, it might remind us why we chose to go down this unpredictable career path. As we move forward in defining the journalism of tomorrow, it can’t hurt to remember the journalism of the past and find a way to be better.


ACLU, Heritage Foundation Weigh In On Supreme Court’s Next Term

By Andrea Salazar

Health care reform and Arizona’s immigration law are expected to be two of the major issues the United States Supreme Court tackles during its fall 2011 term starting in October, and legal analysts representing both ends of the political spectrum are expecting victories for their sides.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Heritage Foundation held dual events in Washington, D.C. Wednesday previewing the upcoming term.
Both organizations touched on the subject of ‘Obamacare’ and agreed that politics must have been involved in the decision to forgo appealing a lower court’s ruling deeming the health care reform law’s individual mandate unconstitutional.
However, Paul Clement, former U.S. solicitor general and partner at Bancroft PLLC, said the question of the mandate’s constitutionality is only the beginning.
“A lot of the focus has been on the individual mandate, but the individual mandate is the tip of the constitutional iceberg when it comes to this case,” he said, “Because you have the question of whether or not the individual mandate is constitutional, if the individual mandate is, in fact, not constitutional, then you have the question of what effect does that have on the rest of this remarkably long and remarkably multifarious statute.”
The ACLU has not officially released an position on the matter, but its legal director, Steven Shapiro, said the mandate falls under the commerce clause and is, therefore, constitutional.
As for Arizona’s immigration law, the constitutionality of which could impact “copycat” laws in states like Georgia, Alabama, Utah, Indiana and South Carolina, Clement says that the administration may face challenges trying to make its case.
“The burden’s on the federal government to explain why it is that immigration is sufficiently different from every other area of the law that a state can’t effectively try to enforce the federal substantive law,” Clement said.
The ACLU’s Omar Jadwat, however, argued that S.B. 1070 goes beyond a federal versus state issue but also has major civil rights implications.

“It’s reminiscent of Jim Crow laws,” Jadwat said, explaining that penalties for being unable to prove one’s legal status creates a system where “certain people are essentially not persons.”

Rulings on the cases the Supreme Court accepts are expected in late June.

Originally for Talk Radio News Service.

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