Despite the general humanoid shape, number of limbs, and non-reptilian skin texture of the characters on West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin’s television shows, it’s always been clear they reside in a parallel universe similar to – yet vastly different than – our own.
It’s a universe where the verbose and eloquent President of the United States is second only in his benevolence, power, wisdom and global impact to late-night sketch comedy writers. Where nearly any mind can spout out a torrent of statistics, obscure trivia, and Latin phrases while powerwalking 25 mph through the corridors of power, but is flummoxed by this “blog” thing and this newfangled “e-mail” notion. Where the only thing keeping journalism from excelling to its heights of yore is not the lack of resources or the closing of foreign bureaus or the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle, but the fact that we just forgot to give it the ol’ college try. Where an auditorium of college students is shocked – shocked! – to hear someone utter (in public!) that he doesn’t think America is the greatest country in the world, instead of hearing that in every history, poli-sci, English literature, and Introduction to Accounting class since freshman orientation.
Which is why I was so interested to hear, on last night’s episode, that on Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” there’s a alternative weekly in Spokane, Wash., called the Pacific Northwest Insider.
During a story pitch session on the topic of immigration, Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) revealed he’d been reading the Insider.
NEAL SAMPAT: “There’s an alternative weekly in Spokane, called the ‘Pacific Northwest Insider’ that published an article about immigration a couple of weeks ago. The story featured a guy named Hector Nunez who revealed that when he was 16, his parents told him that he was living here illegally.
MACKENZIE MCHALE: The paper used his real name?
SAMPAT: Yeah. And the state of Washington rescinded his driver’s license after the piece came out. He needs his car to get to his job with a small moving company and to take his kids to school in the morning. I thought we could have him on.
The “ripped-from-other-paper’s-headlines” story appears to be referring to
the tale of Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who outed himself as an illegal
immigrant in New York Times Magazine. Indeed, Washington state
rescinded his driver’s license, but not because he was illegal
immigrant. It was because he couldn’t prove he actually lived in Washington
state at all. A letter sent to his Washington address was returned
unopened. In fact, Washington state is actually one of only two states* that issues full
driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.
I’m sure, of course, that as Newsroom pursues “Nunez’s” story, they’ll properly portray all that context and nuance. To do otherwise, would be sacrificing truth for ratings, something our journalistic heroes would never do.
We’ll leave you with this hilarious exchange, where Sampat responds to concerns that someone else would book Nunez before the Newsroom.
SAMPAT (chuckling softly): Nobody’s going to book him, nobody’s going to have heard of him, it’s an alternative weekly in Spokane!
The original version of this report incorrectly referred to Washington state as the only state to issue full driver's licenses to illegal immigrants, leaving out New Mexico.