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Adorning an outside wall at HBO’s The Newsroom season two premiere on Wednesday at the Paramount Theater were front pages of major metropolitan papers along with logos of fictional cable news network ACN. Guests at the event were invited to sit behind a News Night desk and play “newscaster karaoke” with their own Will McAvoy impression.
Despite the gimmicky fun of the mock-up desk and other props, the show takes news very seriously. And the cast members of the drama shared with The Hollywood Reporter a bit about where they turn to for information on TV and otherwise. “Well, breaking news, I’ll go to cable news,” said McAvoy himself, Jeff Daniels. “I’ll go to MSNBC,” he explained, adding: “I want to know what the Fox boys are saying, I want to know what their take on it is.”
Daniels sees immediacy, if not necessarily reliability, in Twitter — though was less enthusiastic about the McAvoy parody account that has amassed over 50,000 followers. “Will wouldn’t even bother looking at it, which is very similar to Jeff Daniels,” the actor said.
Olivia Munn, who portrays the business anchor at The Newsroom‘s ACN, mentioned a wide variety of regular sources. “I watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, BBC, I listen to news in the car on my Sirius, I have all the same stations. And then online: Huffington Post, CNN, AP,” she explained.
News Night’s associate producer, actress Alison Pill, conceded that she isn’t a devoted cable-news watcher. “I do a little bit, but I don’t like it very much often,” she explained. Magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic fill her reading time. Of the longer stories in those publications, Pill saw a traditional media/new media divide.
“I feel like that’s what will most be missed in old media,” she said. “The ability to have somebody pay you enough that you can live for six months and follow a story. I think that’s important.”
Sam Waterston, who plays the president of cable news channel ACN’s news division, explained: “I’ve been trying to wean myself away from watching cable news, but I haven’t succeeded.” Usually, he flips the channel to MSNBC or CNN along with reading The New York Review of Books and The New York Times.
Senior producer on News Night, actor John Gallagher Jr. — who is sent to cover Mitt Romney in New Hampshire early in season two (which premieres on July 14) — gets his news mostly on Twitter. “I follow NYT, WSJ, Huffington Post, New York mag — any number of outlets,” he said. “When news breaks, that’s how I hear about it, usually, is on my phone.”
Also, for more of a guilty pleasure, he used to read Gawker’s Blind Items. “You have all these hints and you have to be a little private detective trying to figure it out who it is — but who knows if any of that’s true. But that was kind of like candy,” Gallagher said.
Thomas Sadowski, whose Newsroom character Don Keefer has been described on the show as being well-versed in the “dark arts” of tabloid news, explained that he’s more of a PBS guy. “The fact that they’re not full of graphics and s–t blowing up and all of that stuff [like cable news], for me, is actually a bonus,” he said.
“I honestly don’t watch a lot of television,” explained Dev Patel, whose character runs the blog of News Night and becomes fascinated with the nascent Occupy Wall Street movement in season two. “I go on and look on The Telegraph in the U.K. and also just Google News everyday,” he said.
Adina Porter, who portrays a booker for News Night, mostly listens to NPR radio during the morning hours and names BuzzFeed as a guilty-pleasure read. Chris Chalk, also playing an associate producer at News Night, explained about watching TV news: “There’s not 24 hours of news going on everyday. There’s just not. So I can watch when a breaking story happens, and probably an hour after that, and then when they get the facts.”
Margaret Judson, who plays an associate producer on McAvoy’s show, had previously worked at MSNBC programming during primetime. She met Aaron Sorkin, the HBO show’s creator, in the channel’s newsroom. “I religiously tape [Rachel Maddow‘s show] and Chris Hayes every night,” Judson said.
New to the show, Joel Johnstone portrays a staffer to Romney who refused to let ACN’s producer on the bus after McAvoy deemed the Tea Party “the American Taliban.” He did research by watching C-SPAN and other networks. Asked what his character — a conservative political operative — might regularly read, Johnstone laughed and replied: “No comment, not C-SPAN.”
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