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The Newsroom Ethical Cases


Media ethics is a branch that tackles ethical values and principles of media, including movies. They promote and defend morals such as a general respect for life and the rule of law, and authenticity. Throughout the history of filmmaking, films have been used to represent different aspects in real life and sources and tools for ethics. The Newsroom, for instance, is an American political drama television series that elaborates the treatment of journalism. Behind the scenes, the film shows the events happening at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. According to different reviews done about the movie, it was concluded that the film mirrors real-life journalism dilemmas in real-time. However, the movie has received some critics concerning its representation of the internet’s role in contemporary journalism. According to Peters (2015), the film director, Aaron Sorkin, is far from faultless as he has an extremely old-fashioned view on the subject matter. He only understands the damaging impact of a flattened information landscape without grasping its profits. On the other hand, he cares enough to relate his gifted pen to the predicaments facing Medias today and the encounters facing legacy media in the digital era.

Case Analysis

As mentioned above, most films reflect the happening in the world. In this case, The Newsroom is a news anchoring channel that reports on the happenings around the globe. Before its development, Sorkin witnessed the work of actual cable news outlets. ACN reporters report on events occurring in real life, such as the BP oil spill, the debt-ceiling crisis and the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford, among others. Its season finale was a unique one as it grappled with the ethical concerns that are playing out amongst real-life reporters at the precise time as they are live on the TV screen. In the film, BJ Novack is an evil bazillionaire looking to configure the network into a vertically integrated digital media company (McMartin, 2015). This scene enacts exactly what Chris Hughes was doing at The New Republic. This representation of actual life occurrence through media is an example of consequentialist ethics whose moral justification depends on the outcomes. The director decides to use this representation to educate people on what is happening in real life and how it affects them. As a result, observing the show is immersive journalism knowledge and a moral lesson in ethical decision-making.

The film, however, portrays some ethical principles that were observed. For starters, there was truth and honesty in the movie’s content. Being a journalism movie, Sorkin did an excellent job at keeping the news as honest as possible to avoid any rivalry of fake news. Also, he maintained the principle of privacy as he did not disclose any personal information concerning the news reported on screen. However, the content went hand-in-hand with the happenings in another company at the same time but was not mentioned. That part was left for the public to figure out, thus maintaining the ethical code of confidentiality. Moreover, Sorkin involved the code of conflicts witnessed through several characters. For instance, there is a conflict between the main character, Will McAvoy and his ex-girlfriend Mackenzie Morgan. After studying journalism overseas for over two years, Mackenzie intends to return ACN to the actual news broadcasts days. As the news presenter, Will feels disturbed by this idea that affects his news broadcast, resulting in a conflict. However, there is no representation of antisocial behaviour like violence and incivility in the film and offensive content that depicts racist, obscene or profane content. Sorkin focuses on a political aspect of things in the media house. Although there is a love story in the midst, it does not come out as a significant theme in the movie.

The ethical framework, utilitarianism, applied in the film is practical. It is perhaps the most widely recognized ways to deal with settling on moral choice, particularly choices with outcomes that concern a lot of people. For instance, it is a secular system that focuses on humanity and seeks to create the highest good (Detenber et al., 2012). Sorkin, through the film, elaborates the struggles in the media house and what they go through to protect the public from the actual evil that happens around people. From the film, there is a scene where Will is interviewed and complimented on how he is a good news reporter for always saying the good and avoiding the negative. Will, however, is disturbed because he knows they are not valid. He fails to contain his anger and speak up on the facts that make America, not a ‘great country.’ This costs him his audience as he is caught a cross-fire that almost costs him his job. Sorkin elaborates on the dangers of saying the ‘truth’ in journalism.


The Newsroom is a film that effectively elaborates the happenings in the media house. We can conclude this as accurate as Sorkin did good research before developing the film. However, as the film reflects on the happenings in society, it also observes the ethics in media, including honesty and confidentiality, among others. It is a compelling film as it can also be used for educational purposes. Many researchers claim that media ethics is not taught in schools as expected to be conducted at work. However, this should not be the case, as learners should learn media ethics before entering the employment sector (Peterlin & Peters, 2019). The film can teach journalism ethics, as it majorly focuses on the lives of journalists and their application at the workplace.


Detenber, B. H., Cenite, M., Malik, S., & Neo, R. L. (2012). Examining education and newsroom work experience as predictors of communication students’ perceptions of journalism ethics. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 67(1), 45-69,

McMartin, M. J. (2015). Investigating the civil, religious phenomenon in America: A content analysis of HBO’s The Newsroom. Literature & Aesthetics, 25(1),

Peterlin, L. J., & Peters, J. (2019). Teaching Journalism Ethics through “The Newsroom”: An Enhanced Learning Experience. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 74(1), 44–59.

Peters, C. (2015). Evaluating journalism through popular culture: HBO’s The Newsroom and public reflections on the state of the news media. Media, culture & society, 37(4), 602-619,


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