Aaron Sorkin, wishing for a do-over on ‘The Newsroom’

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Aaron Sorkin appearing on 'The Colbert Report' to promote 'The Newsroom.' (Screenshot via Comedy Central)
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Alex Weprin

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"I think there has been a terrible misunderstanding."

Last night, writer and showrunner Aaron Sorkin was reflecting on the public reaction to his HBO show about life in a cable network newsroom, and asked a group that had assembled for an event that was part of the ongoing Tribeca Film Festival to imagine that they stood in for the whole world—or at least, HBO’s viewing public.

“I think you and I got off on the wrong foot with ‘The Newsroom,’ and I apologize and I would like to start over,” Sorkin said, addressing the audience. “I wish that I could go back to the beginning of ‘The Newsroom’ and start again, like with a play, where they have a preview period in front of an audience. I am feeling really good about how the third season is going. I will 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.”

He had begun on the topic by explaining that “The Newsroom” was never meant to be a vehicle for criticizing the way cable news stations have handled recent events.

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“I did not set the show in the recent past in order to show the pro’s how it should have been done. That was and remains the furthest thing in my mind,” he said.

“I set the show in the recent past because I didn't want to make up fake news,” he said. “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 are living in. I wanted the option of having the terrific dynamic you get when the audience knows more than the characters do.”

Of course Sorkin has never been shy in criticizing the media, and he had a new argument at last night’s event, where he was being interviewed on stage by former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau.

Sorkin, who has woven the media into many of his projects, from “The Newsroom,” and “Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip” to films like The Social Network, thinks that the media business may be tilting too far from creatives.

“I am frightened that market forces are winning,” Sorkin. “I wrote this line, I think it was in ‘Studio 60,’ ‘there has always been a battle between art and commerce, but art is getting its ass kicked.’”

Sorkin recalled a story that went far and wide last week, of the 14-year-old girl who tweeted a threat to an official American Airlines account. The threat went viral, and she quickly gained thousands of followers, even as her information was reported to authorities.

“I feel like there are grownups in the media who are just chasing Sarah’s 20,000 followers, and don’t care how they get there,” Sorkin said. “It is going to be a hyperbolic headline, followed by meanness, and kind of a relationship with the truth that borders on indifference.”

On Monday, while Sorkin was in New York, “The Newsroom” began to shoot an episode that featured the Boston Marathon bombing as a focal point. He revealed a change viewers could expect for the show’s third and final season.

“I have a very hard time with bad guys, almost as soon as I write one I kind of start writing them to becoming a good guy,” he said. “Even on ‘The Newsroom,’ Jane Fonda and Chris Messina, who plays her son, you will see this season are heroes now.”

Sorkin spoke briefly about the upcoming Steve Jobs biopic he wrote, hinting that despite the title and protagonist, it is the other people in Jobs’ life that may get center stage.

“It is not a biopic, this movie, it is not the story of Steve Jobs, it is something much different than that,” Sorkin said. “I want to let the movie speak for itself, but he is a fascinating guy, surrounded by fascinating people, very interesting relationships with the people in his life.”