You know your show has truly made it when you get an appreciative phone call from the son of a disgraced ex-football coach who actively covered up the disgusting behavior of a child molester.
The emotional plotline of the July 15 episode of HBO's The Newsroom actually dealt with the 2011 attempted assassination of US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the subsequent media reports that Giffords had been killed, as the networks rushed to deliver the erroneous news after National Public Radio had made the claim. In the episode, the staff of the fictitious News Night, hosted by Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels), struggled with the decision whether to report the Arizona representative's death without confirmation and ultimately chose to hold off on the report, despite pressure from network brass who were more concerned about TV ratings.
The Paterno family—no strangers to playing the victim card in the face of evidence that Coach JoePa knew about assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's proclivities for young boys and did nothing to stop his reign of terror—saw this episode and immediately recognized how the situation paralleled their own, as the elder Paterno was pronounced dead by the media 12 hours before he had actually, y'know, died. After viewing the July 15 episode, Joe's son Jay Paterno reached out to Newsroom creator/writer Aaron Sorkin to express his gratitude for shining a light on the responsibility of the news media when reporting the death of a public figure.
In an email to Sorkin, Rep. Giffords' husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, also shared his appreciation for the way that the show handled the issue. Always one to pat himself on the back, Sorkin told The Hollywood Reporter, "He was describing what it was like being in their living room watching the show together. For him, it was a very, very moving experience," adding, "In that instance, he obviously had a much more personal connection to what was happening on the screen than the average viewer; it meant the world to me."
While I agree with the sentiment that news outlets are in too much of a hurry to break a story in their mad dash for TV ratings, the episode was heavy-handed as usual with Sorkin. How did you feel about it?