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In Defense Of The Newsroom Again or: An Open Letter To Aaron Sorkin

A few days ago I wrote an article in defense of Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom. I stated very plainly that I disagree with criticisms of the show by certain people in the media and I made my snarky and (hopefully) humorous case as to why I think it is a well made show. I didn’t go into detail with rebuttals of popular criticisms, or even make strong arguments as to why the critics of The Newsroom had gotten it wrong, I simply said that people “don’t get it,” and moved on with my day. I had anticipated a few hundred people would read the feature, mostly people that stick around on this site and know my work and my style, agree or disagree with me, and move on. But then something interesting happened. It went viral.

Apparently being the only person on the entire Internet with a particular view gets you a lot of page views. Within a day or two I had sparked a Twitter campaign to #SaveNewsroom from hostile critics. My mission to civilize had spread and eventually got picked up by one of the stars of The Newsroom, Thomas Sadoski. As the Twitter campaign surged and more people found the article, it got picked up on Zergnet and other various websites. From there, I received a multitude of comments on the site and on Twitter, mostly from people that agreed with me.

But of course, not everyone agrees with certain things. Eventually a thread on the Television Without Pitty forums found the article and started to tear me apart. One person even had this to say about me:

“Whoa, a guy who thinks that people who don’t agree with him are dipshits is an Aaron Sorkin fan? Color me shocked.”

He also said this:

“I know a man who’s in the market for a new writing staff. I think you might be just the guy he’s looking for.”

Now, of course his statement was cloaked in layers of heavy Internet sarcasm, but it made me think.

First of all, the people in the TWoP forums were not wrong. My original feature was more of a light piece poking fun at the critics of the series, and was not meant to be taken as a highly researched or well-argued “takedown piece” on critics of the series. It was certainly not meant as a rally cry to begin campaigning to #SaveNewsroom. The feedback and criticism I got from the article were all welcomed and very informative, but unfortunately I did not put my best foot forward and anticipate the massive impact that my article would have. Yes, I do stand by all of the points that I previously made, but I agree with my critics and understand that there was definitely a better way to say them.

For example, I could have said that when the Los Angeles Times says that “The drama is weighted too heavily toward sermonizing diatribes,” what the Los Angeles time isn’t getting is that those “sermonizing diatribes” are actually expertly used to show two sides to an argument. Episode after episode of The Newsroom, viewers are treated to soaring and expertly written arguments, or “sermonizing diatribes,” from both sides of the political spectrum. In Episode 6, just when we think that Will McAvoy has had his “sermonizing diatribe” of the episode, we learn that his “sermonizing diatribe” was actually incorrect. He poured his heart into one side of the argument, and was then proven wrong. By a Republican nonetheless. So when the Los Angeles Times says that “The Drama is weighted too heavily toward sermonizing diatribes,” I have only two things to say. One, it’s not; watch the show. And two, learn to write like a human. Using big words doesn’t make you intelligent.

But that’s the beauty of hindsight, isn’t it? My original argument is published and has been read and I’m not about to change it.

But back to the TWoP forum and how someone sarcastically said that I might be just the guy that a man who’s in the market for a new writing staff is looking for. The man this poster is referring to is of course Aaron Sorkin, who reportedly fired his entire Newsroom writing staff. Despite the fact that this isn’t true, there was still a turnover of writers on The Newsroom and Sorkin is definitely looking for some more people to fill the void.

As well, the A.V. club had an article up not too long ago about this reported firing where the writer of the article said that he would be willing to apply for the job. He then joked about having a spec script (which is TV-speak for a speculative script emulating an existing television show, like The Newsroom, but with your own dialogue and plot-lines) and wanting Aaron Sorkin to hire him.

But hey, I’m a television writer and a longtime fan of Sorkin, and I actually do have a spec script of The Newsroom. So I figured that amidst all this criticism, both of me, Aaron Sorkin, and The Newsroom, I’d throw my hat in the ring and write this article with the hope that the Internet will once again carry me to viral fame and spread my message all the way to the creator and writer of The Newsroom himself, Aaron Sorkin.

Mr. Sorkin, your show is awesome, and I want in.

Jake Horowitz

Easily the most sarcastic, snarky, and opinionated writer on Scene Creek, Jake has been a staff writer with us since 2011 where he has entertained readers with his semi-weekly segment, "All Questions Answered." After writing for Collider.com and other outlets around the web, Jake has found his home at Scene Creek where he has spawned numerous features, reviews, and recurring segments that serve to enlighten, confuse, and infuriate readers. Most of Jake's time is spent writing for television or watching television, but in his spare time he will interact with readers and fans and post witty one-liners on his Twitter account. Favorite Movies: Rain Man, Social Network, Toy Story 3

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  • Jonathan

    I love the Newsroom. I love all of Sorkin’s shows. I think his writing is first rate and his use of dialogue and his use of music are simply masterful. I couldn’t understand why people were tearing apart Studio 60 when it was on and I don’t understand people who are hating on the Newsroom. I know that the conservative right will instantly hate anything that suggests that anything done by the right is less than divine as well as suggesting anything done by the left was OK, for such suggestions are clearly the result of “liberal-biased-Hollywood!!”

    As for the TWoP website… who cares what those jack-holes have to say? That is a terrible website. Right now, they have some woman just vomiting hate for Sorkin with each episode review… a woman who says one of her favorite TV shows was Dallas… so why on Earth should anyone care what she has to say about Sorkin? But it’s a place where haters can just revel in their hate and pat each other on the back for being snide and wretched. Honestly… if you don’t like a show, how about just not watching it? TWoP is just a terrible, terrible website and an example of the worst of the internet.

    I think Newsroom is one of the better shows on television right now. I really don’t watch much television and most of the shows I do watch are on HBO. I thought the episode with the final part being the news report of the shooting of Sen. Giffords was an incredible moment that brought me to tears every time I saw the episode (much like the emotional impact I feel every time I watch the “Two Cathedrals” episode of West Wing. Thank you for writing your article! I know many fans of the Newsroom who applaud your statements.

    • Jake

      Thanks for the feedback. Glad to know that my statements are applauded by someone. Thanks for being a fan (of both me, and The Newsroom).

  • Karen VH

    The Newsroom is awesome. It got off to a rocky start but it has found its groove. The last two episodes were amazing. Sure, there are still nits to pick but the show overall is great.

  • Troy

    I totally get where the author of this article is coming and I totally respect his point of view. With that being said, NEWSROOM IS CORNY in my opinion. I could elaborate on why I think its corny but I think those points have been made over and over again to exhaustion on other sites. My aim is not to trash the show nor do I want to offend anyone who actually likes the show. I thought the intense argument between Sam Waterson and Olivia Munn(the name of the exact episode escapes me, the one where she interviewed the japanese guy) was some of the best television Ive seen in years, but moments like those are not frequent enough to out weight the over all corny vibe I get from the show. Than again, I think that corny vibe is what makes Newsroom “Newsroom”, its supposed to be overly dramatic and preachy, I think thats the whole point….

  • kurt

    Nice articles, Jake. I too am puzzled by the vitriol surrounding The Newsroom. However glib it might sound, part of the explanation has to include something about how if it makes people react so strongly, positively or negatively, Sorkin et al must be doing something right.
    But as far as the negative reviews go, I think it has something to do with actual journalists’ discomfort when they are forced to take a look at themselves.
    (Not to self-promote, but if you’re interested, here’s a post I wrote about it a few weeks ago. http://bit.ly/Mm0WdB)
    The TL;DR version: I think part of the explanation for these hostile, derisive reviews stems from a defensiveness among journalists (a tribe to which I tangentially belong.) When real-life journalists see a show–admittedly a sometimes self-righteous, overly idealistic show–depicting news people making hard, unpopular choices and refusing to compromise (until they do, haha, as in the Casey Anthony storyline) it makes them uncomfortable.
    Of course there are weaknesses in the show. Of course it’s not a perfect reflection of how news or even how people actually work. It’s fiction. As you point out, realism and storytelling don’t always go hand in hand. That said, it still has a lot going for it, especially compared to the ongoing farce that is the actual television news.