After two seasons of weathering criticisms from journalists who would question his methods, likely out of fear and cowardice, Aaron Sorkin has answered the backlash to The Newsroom the way Aaron Sorkin knows how: with an Aaron Sorkin speech. The setting was the Tribeca Film Festival, where Jon Favreau (the former Obama speechwriter, not the other one) asked Sorkin about what he’s learned about the press, after two years of appearing to scold it about how it does its job. Unexpectedly for a man who often seems to respect only those members of the media he himself invents, Sorkin apologized—to them and to everyone.
“I’m going to let you all stand in for everyone in the world, if you don’t mind. I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with The Newsroom and I apologize and I’d like to start over… I think that there’s been a terrible misunderstanding. I did not set the show in the recent past in order to show the pros how it should have been done. That was and remains the furthest thing from my mind. I set the show in the recent past because I didn’t want to make up fake news. It was going to be weird if the world that these people were living in did not in any way resemble the world that you were living in… Also, I wanted the option of having a terrific dynamic that you can get when the audience knows more than the characters do…
So, I wasn’t trying to and I’m not capable of teaching a professional journalist a lesson. That wasn’t my intent and it’s never my intent to teach you a lesson or try to persuade you or anything.”
In fact, Sorkin continued, despite writing characters who regularly wield superiority over stand-ins for the assorted, vacuous rabble of the Worst. Generation. Ever., Sorkin isn’t trying to say he actually knows any better. Indeed, he’s very much among that rabble himself, ever in awe of the much smarter imaginary people he created.
“I haven’t become an expert in anything. I’m not sophisticated when it comes to politics, when it comes to journalism. I’m not as smart as the characters are or, as you can see, as articulate,” he said, stumbling over his words. “I want to make it clear: I don’t know nothin’”
What Sorkin does know, however, is that he’s finally getting better. “I feel like I’m just now starting to learn how to write it,” he said of The Newsroom, framing the first two seasons as “a learning curve, and unfortunately, those lessons are learned in front of several million people.” Now that the show is entering its third—and final—season, Sorkin says, “I wish that I could go back to the beginning of The Newsroom and start again.”
Indeed, as we’ve learned from watching The Newsroom, it’s only with the benefit of Aaron Sorkin’s hindsight that one knows exactly how things should have been done.