This week's episode of HBO's new series The Newsroom, takes a peek into what makes News Night anchor Will MacAvoy (Jeff Daniels) tick. The fast pace and subject matter of the series make most episodes intense, but this week's "Bullies" pack a powerful emotional punch when Will finds that he cannot sleep, and it begins to affect his work.
When we first meet Will at the beginning of the series, he is bottled up, more concerned with image than integrity, with ratings than real news. He is distant, and feared by his colleagues and staff.
Re-discovering his inner crusader (and a bit of his heart) when News Director Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) brings back former lover Mac (Emily Mortimer) as executive producer, the genie, as it were, escapes Will's bottle. He becomes driven by a need to expose the lies and lay bare the truth, whatever the cost, especially hard-wired to punch back at the bullies of the world.
I hadn't thought of it until this week's episode, but has Will does seem compelled to be the bullies' bully. But how far can you take the argument "I'm protecting people from the bullies" before you become one yourself?
Journalists, especially in these days of social media wield incredible power. Misdirected or miused, that power can destroy the lives and livelihoods of innocent bystanders, who become victims to hubris, intended or not.
In a news interview, when does agressive questioning become bullying? When Will interviews an advisor to the just-announced presidential candidate Rick Santorum, he crosses that line.
Will mines the irony of an African-American gay educator being Santorum's advisor, hitting the advisor with tough, unyielding questions, believing the attack is against the narrow-minded, former U.S. Senator. But Will's line of questioning ventures into bullying, cross-examining the poor guy like a prosecutor forcing a confession from a recalcitrant witness on the stand.