Did Aaron Sorkin Really Apologize for 'The Newsroom' Last Night?

Because it sounds like he still thinks we just don't get it.

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Because it sounds like he still thinks we just don't get it.

The internet is abuzz about a rare moment of humility from screenwriting icon Aaron Sorkin, who apparently copped to how much his much-hyped HBO drama The Newsroom has disappointed audiences, particularly focusing on its weird gimmick of being set set in the recent past. Many critics decried the device, since it was often seemingly deployed to make the fictional news team at ACN seem smarter than everyone in the real world by covering stories as they should have been covered. But at a Tribeca Film Festival panel, Sorkin said that wasn't his intention. 

"I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with The Newsroom and I apologize and I’d like to start over," he told interviewer Jon Favreau (the Obama speechwriter, not the guy from Swingers). Sorkin went further:

"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."

Now, let's be fair to ol' Aaron. He did use the words "I apologize," which is more than he ever did for inflicting Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on the world. And he gets that it might seem weird that he's lecturing journalists on how to do their jobs. But then he goes on to explain to us that we just didn't get his intent. He just didn't want to make up fake news, which makes sense! The West Wing always seemed a little off when it mixed in totally fictional countries obviously intended to stand in for real ones (everyone remember Qumar?)

Sorkin has always been a defensive guy, and there's been multiple incidents over the years of him pushing back against internet criticism of his writing (a dispute with Television Without Pity became a subplot in The West Wing episode "The U.S. Poet Laureate"). He hinted that there's still a chip deeply embedded on his shoulder in the Tribeca interview, saying "Actually, I’ve got some evidence that I’ve got some harsher critics than me" when Favreau suggested Sorkin was his own toughest critic.

Maybe we should just give Sorkin the benefit of the doubt. The important thing is growth, and he's definitely becoming more introspective about his work. " I feel like I’m just now starting to learn how to write [The Newsroom]," he told an audience member. "There is a learning curve and unfortunately, those lessons are learned in front of several million people. Again, that’s what you sign up for. I wish that I could go back to the beginning of The Newsroom and start again and replicate what you have with a play, which is a preview period… But I’m feeling really good about how the third season is going. I’ll look back on it fondly and proudly and wish I could get every scene of every episode back so that I could do it all over again."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.