While HBO's The Newsroom presents itself as fictional television, its narrative is driven by critiquing American cable news culture and contemporary journalism ethics. This article analyses popular reflections on the programme to identify what these discourses reveal about public evaluations of the state of the US news media. Based upon 1115 lengthy audience posts and discussions and 49 news articles, I argue that the response to this supposedly 'fictional' newscast nonetheless reveals a highly politicized scepticism about the actual news media and a corresponding - although fairly depoliticized and surprisingly uniform - nostalgic lament for the journalism of days gone by. Similarly, findings suggest that the traditional modernist discourse of journalism as a public good persists - both among journalists and the public - despite the evident commercial underpinnings of the American media system. The study finds that audiences and journalists alike use the show as a catalyst to (1) 'name and shame' news outlets - including the fictional Newsroom, (2) engage in political confrontation and (3) employ the rhetoric and metanarratives of the Anglo-American objectivity regime to define 'good' journalism. However, it also finds that while individuals may embrace critique, they often lack critical skills to go beyond politicized accusations of bias.