About as brilliant a piece of television as you can get on The Newsroom 2.7 last night, which completed its careful dissection of the worst decision a news network can possibly make.
That decision, which we've seen both the build-up to and (thanks to flashforwards) some of the consequences of all season, was ACN's going live with a stunning report: the US used sarin gas in Pakistan. This would have been a provocative story for The Newsroom to probe even were it not for the awful synchrony of nerve gas being used by Syria just last week in our reality. In the case of The Newsroom, it represented a departure from the series' forte, which is detailing the reporting of real stories.
I still favor the basic reporting on real stories which is the lifeblood of the series, but the sarin gas story was done so well as to be a tour-de-force in itself. The ease with which a video recording can be altered in this digital age with barely a trace, the way in which the alteration was discovered, the reaction of all the principals to the unfolding recognition that this prime news operation had been taken for a ride, was a tableau writ large of just what can go wrong in our age of 24/7 news and why.
The discussion over whether to air the report in the first place was itself extraordinary. The varying reasons for going with story, the counter arguments, presented a textbook of how right and wrong opinions in all their variations can all seem to so right. For me, Jim Harper's distrust of the producer who was leading the charge - who indeed covertly edited an interview to give it a declarative statement it never had - would have been the most persuasive, even if we hadn't seen the producer do the dirty edit. In life, you sometimes have to go with your gut. At very least, you enter dangerous precincts when you put your gut aside.
It was also gratifying to see Jane Fonda's character Leona, the ultimate owner of the network, stand behind her people even when, consumed with guilt, they were serious about resigning. When Charlie tells her, voice high emotion, that they have to resign because "we don't have the trust of the public anymore," Leona screams back, "get it back!"
Would that there more people in positions of power in the media like Leona!
On to the coverage of real stories in two weeks - 2012 Election night!