'The Newsroom' Recap: The Rage Phase, Twitter Etiquette

Editing errors and a fake news report are only a few of the problems facing the "News Night" team in the fifth episode of season two.

[Spoilers ahead from Sunday's episode, "News Night With Will McAvoy."]

Tweets, Buzzfeed pickups, Huffington Post slideshows, World Net Daily reports and George Zimmerman's 911 call all make appearances this week. And, on more than one occasion, Aaron Sorkin's script tries its hand at media criticism. 

After a fourth episode that took place mostly in Africa, the action returns to the News Night team in New York and jumps forward several months. It's now March 16, 2012. 

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Reese Lansing (Chris Messina) and Charlie Skinner (Sam Waterston) are seen questioning Sloan Sabbith (Olivia Munn) about compromising pictures of her that have gone viral online. After initially stating that the images weren't of her, the anchor explained that she began dating a consultant for AIG six weeks ago and they were drinking when he took photos of her in a hotel. They broke up a day later and the consultant posted the images online. Reese tells her that she's now a trending topic.

Meanwhile, Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is starting to report on the George Zimmerman-Travyon Martin case. While he's on-air, he gets a missed call from his father, who was hospitalized. In more trivial matters, the anchor is also informed by Neal Sampat (Dev Patel) that McAvoy is currently facing backlash on Twitter. A New York Post writer tweeted that she ran into the anchor at a restaurant at lunch and he snubbed her. Buzzfeed picked up the tweet.

Will, surprisingly, frets about the tweet. (Daniels, when asked by The Hollywood Reporter at the HBO premiere about McAvoy's feelings toward a Twitter parody account, had explained: "Will wouldn’t even bother looking at it, which is very similar to Jeff Daniels.") Newsroom producer Mackenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) scoffs at being concerned about a tweet. "How many followers does she have?" asks Will of the Post writer. It seems like she has a few. 

Back to the rest of the news team: Jim Harper (John Gallagher Jr.) and Maggie Jordan (Alison Pill) are downloading the four-minute-and-seven-second Zimmerman 911 call from the Seminole County Sheriff's Department. Viewers learn that Maggie has been taking her ill-fated reporting trip to Africa pretty poorly in the months since she's returned. She criticizes Jim's romantic interest, Hallie Shea (Grace Gummer), a women's-issues writer, whose article "We Are All Sandra Fluke" was picked up by The Huffington Post.

Once downloaded, Maggie is tasked with editing Zimmerman's 911 call from four minutes to 20 or so seconds. In an oversight, she cuts out the 911 operator's question to Zimmerman, making it look like the neighborhood watch volunteer just stated the race of Martin rather than being prompted for the info. (This incident is based on a real error made by NBC's Today show in March 2012 -- a producer was subsequently fired and Zimmerman sued the network.)

After Maggie realizes she cut the question, she apologizes to Mackenzie and Charlie and they run the full audiotape. "I was hearing it for the first time," she explains.  

Elsewhere at the Atlantis Cable News, a joke that producer Don Keefer (Thomas Sadoski) made was taken seriously by a fringe news website. World Net Daily published a story citing a "reputable source" saying that a top solicitor general candidate was talking to a jihadi group called the Righteous Daughters of Jihadi Excellence. Even though Keefer explains to a WND editor that he was making a joke, the site refuses to pull the story and says that it has other sources. (This story also doesn't seem too far removed from a recent real-life incident.)

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Back to the News Night desk. Mackenzie finds out that a guest on an upcoming program -- a student from the Rutgers Gay-Straight Alliance who is a guest to talk about the Tyler Clementi case -- wants to come out publicly on the air. Mackenzie shuts down this idea saying, "It's just not that kind of show." 

The show's overarching story arc, the Genoa investigation, also gets advanced in the episode. Charlie Skinner is visited by a high-level source who starts asking about the investigation that D.C. bureau producer Jerry Dantana (Hamish Linklater) has been doing the last seven months. The source describes a hypothetical scenario involving chemical weapons. "Your hypothetical bears a remarkable resemblance to the rumor we've been chasing," Skinner says. 
As the News Night program airs, Will learns that his father has passed away. He forges on with the show and airs the unedited tape of the Zimmerman 911 call. Sloan, meanwhile, goes to the office of the consultant who posted the photos of her and calls him away from the meeting. She punches him in the face, bloodying him, before taking a picture. "I made it to the rage phase," she says.
Bonus: A day before the episode aired, Jeff Daniels kept his preview simple: