Thirty years later, watching Broadcast News might inspire even more questions of life imitating film; watching a film about an industry that has since become the old guard allows us to see parallels among today’s ideas about new media. If the field of journalism has one easily identified and frequently fictionalized problem, it is one of proportions. The people who care deeply about journalism, whether as an art form or a necessity, are too often also the same people who make it. Broadcast News predicted that the way we feel about the news would become the news itself, and that there was real drama to be found in how much the people who make the news care about it — let’s not forget one of Aaron’s lines, delivered with sarcasm, which proves truer than he’d like to admit: Journalists are the real story. This often creates an effect that is less of an overlap and more of an eclipse — journalists making art about why journalism is worth caring about. To look at it without being blinded requires the remove of allegory, and the protection of comedy.
Imagine that work had taken over the world. It would be the centre around which the rest of life turned. Then all else would come to be subservient to work. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, anything else – the games once played, the songs hitherto sung, the loves fulfilled, the festivals celebrated – would come to resemble, and ultimately become, work. And then there would come a time, itself largely unobserved, when the many worlds that had once existed before work took over the world would vanish completely from the cultural record, having fallen into oblivion.
And how, in this world of total work, would people think and sound and act? Everywhere they looked, they would see the pre-employed, employed, post-employed, underemployed and unemployed, and there would be no one uncounted in this census. Everywhere they would laud and love work, wishing each other the very best for a productive day, opening their eyes to tasks and closing them only to sleep. Everywhere an ethos of hard work would be championed as the means by which success is to be achieved, laziness being deemed the gravest sin. Everywhere among content-providers, knowledge-brokers, collaboration architects and heads of new divisions would be heard ceaseless chatter about workflows and deltas, about plans and benchmarks, about scaling up, monetisation and growth.
Of course, one can speak of capitalism and false consciousness and class war, of technology hypnotizing people with outrage. But I think there is a deeper truth here. There is a myth of exceptionalism in America that prevents it from looking outward, and learning from the world. It is made up of littler myths about greed being good, the weak deserving nothing, society being an arena, not a lever, for the survival of the fittest — and America is busy recounting those myths, not learning from the world, in slightly weaker (Democrats) or stronger (Republicans) forms. Still, the myths stay the same — and the debate is only really about whether a lightning bolt or a thunderstorm is the just punishment from the gods for the fallen, and a palace or a kingdom is the just reward for the cunning.
She writes about her addiction with admirable honesty, and in a tone that is light, bubbly and remarkably rarely annoying. It is impossible to disagree with her argument that our society is a booze-pusher, or that there are many health benefits to drinking less. Where there is room for disagreement is on whether 100% sobriety is really the answer for everyone.