Monday, July 2, 2012

Aaron Sorkin's "The Newsroom" and the "Pacific Northwest Insider"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2012 at 10:33 AM

Despite the general humanoid shape, number of limbs, and non-reptilian skintexture of the characters on West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin’stelevision shows, it’s always been clear they reside in a parallel universesimilar to — yet vastly different than — our own.

It’s a universe where the verbose and eloquent President of the United Statesis second only in his benevolence, power, wisdom and global impact to late-nightsketch comedy writers. Where nearly any mind can spout out a torrent ofstatistics, obscure trivia, and Latin phrases while powerwalking 25 mph throughthe corridors of power, but is flummoxed by this “blog” thing and thisnewfangled “e-mail” notion. Where the only thing keeping journalism fromexcelling to its heights of yore is not the lack of resources or the closing offoreign bureaus or the pressures of the 24-hour news cycle, but the fact that wejust forgot to give it the ol’ college try. Where an auditorium of collegestudents is shocked – shocked! – to hear someone utter (in public!) that hedoesn’t think America is the greatest country in the world, instead of hearingthat in every history, poli-sci, English literature, and Introduction toAccounting class since freshman orientation.

Which is why I was so interested to hear, on last night’s episode, that onSorkin’s “The Newsroom” there’s a alternative weekly in Spokane, Wash., calledthe Pacific Northwest Insider.

During a story pitch session on the topic of immigration, Neal  Sampat (DevPatel) revealed he’d been reading the Insider.

NEAL SAMPAT: “There’s an alternative  weekly in Spokane, called the ‘PacificNorthwest Insider’ that published an article about immigration a couple of weeksago. The story featured a guy named Hector Nunez who revealed that when he was16, 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 And the state of Washington rescinded his driver’s licenseafter the piece came out. He needs his car to get to his job with a small movingcompany and to take his kids to school in the morning. I thought we could havehim on.

The “ripped-from-other-paper’s-headlines” story appears to be referring tothe tale of Jose Antonio Vargas, a journalist who outed himself as an illegalimmigrant in New York Times Magazine. Indeed, Washington staterescinded his driver’s license, but not because he was illegalimmigrant. It was because he couldn’t prove he actually lived in Washingtonstate at all. A letter sent to his Washington address was returnedunopened. In fact, Washington state is actually one of only two states* that issues fulldriver’s licenses to illegal immigrants.

I’m sure, of course, that asNewsroom pursues “Nunez’s” story, they’ll properly portray all thatcontext 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 toconcerns that someone else would book Nunez before the Newsroom.

SAMPAT (chuckling softly): Nobody’s going to book him, nobody’s going to haveheard of him, it’s an alternative weekly in Spokane!

Hey! I’ll have you know our “Bigfoot”coverage took America by storm. But it’s not like you’d care about Bigfoot,would you Sampat?

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.

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About The Author

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters is the Inlander's senior investigative reporter. But he also reports on a wide swath of other topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.He's reported on deep flaws in the Washington...