First, a disclaimer: I understand that television is entertainment and by no means should be utilized for choosing an occupation.
I work in PR, I am a writer, and I love watching television. It is inevitable that I inhabit one of these identities while engaging with the other. This Sunday evening, along with about 2.2 million others, I tuned in to the HBO premiere of the second season of Aaron Sorkin’s latest stress occupation gabfest “The Newsroom.” Of course, you can’t separate PR from the news or television these days, nor can we apparently separate either from having some connection to reality.
Having worked in a corporate newsroom as well as in crisis communications and PR, I feel I have a fairly good handle on what life is like in a newsroom. While watching the premiere, a battle ensued between my internal Writer, Worker and Watcher. While the Writer and Watcher were both thrilled to the core with the buzzy, fun and witty dialogue and the careful narrative balance between the personal and the professional (oh my!), the Worker was very stressed out wondering how any of these crises could possibly be effectively dealt with while everyone was busy buzzing?
In my experience as a Worker, when things go down in the communications field, you are lucky to be able to string a cohesive sentence together, let alone have the time to engage for more than 30 seconds with your colleagues. Yes, we may come together to frantically order pizza or step outside for a breather, but the highest level of communication is left to email or phone conversations. Witty remarks may be met with an appreciative smile, but most likely will be forgotten until the next day when reliving the crisis. While the dramatized version of life is much more exciting, events are collapsed for optimum drama, and we are always prepared with a great comeback line—the truth is often a lot less glamorous.
What strikes a chord with all three of my internal W’s is that the more I know about the real life occupation or situation on shows like “The Newsroom” and the closer such a show strives to bring in “reality,” the more I critique its creative license. Television is a powerful tool, combine it with the trend toward reality-driven drama and ease of finding information, and it is not difficult to see how viewers might make the assumption that what appears on the screen is real life. As a Worker, Watcher and Writer, I do think the distance between reality and fiction needs to shrink just a bit, especially for the next generation of professionals trying to choose a career.