After The Newsroom's ridiculously over-the-top rape subplot aired last night, Alena Smith, a writer on the show, tweeted out her experience in the writer's room during the episode's creation. "When I tried to argue, in the writer's room, that maybe we skip the storyline where the rape victim gets interrogated by a random man," she wrote, "I ended up getting kicked out of the room and screamed at just like Hallie would have for a 'bad tweet.'
"I found the experience quite boring," she continued. "I wanted to fight with Aaron about the NSA, not gender. I didn't like getting cast in his outdated role."
Smith's outspokenness was brave, and a clear example of women being undermined in the workplace by their male colleagues. Sorkin, though, is upset—not because he disagrees with her account, but because she actually spoke up for herself in the first place, saying that Smith "casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality." What a Don-like rationalization!
In a lengthy statement, Sorkin told Mediaitethat he was "happy" to hear that people are talking about the episode. But:
Alena Smith, a staff writer who joined the show for the third season, had strong objections to the Princeton story and made those objections known to me and to the room. I heard Alena's objections and there was some healthy back and forth. After a while I needed to move on (there's a clock ticking) but Alena wasn't ready to do that yet. I gave her more time but then I really needed to move on. Alena still wouldn't let me do that so I excused her from the room.
The next day I wrote a new draft of the Princeton scenes–the draft you saw performed last night. Alena gave the new pages her enthusiastic support. So I was surprised to be told this morning that Alena had tweeted out her unhappiness with the story. But I was even more surprised that she had so casually violated the most important rule of working in a writers room which is confidentiality. It was a room in which people felt safe enough to discuss private and intimate details of their lives in the hope of bringing dimension to stories that were being pitched. That's what happens in writers rooms and while ours was the first one Alena ever worked in, the importance of privacy was made clear to everyone on our first day of work and was reinforced constantly. I'm saddened that she's broken that trust.
It's well known that writers working on a show in process need to keep a modicum of writer's-room secrets, but Sorkin doesn't accurately explain why Smith should keep their workplace interactions quiet now—the show has only one more episode before the entire series is kaput, and it's not like she divulged potential alternate plots or ideas the writers considered before going with what's in the script. (In fact, it's Sorkin who does that.) But women aren't supposed to speak up about their male bosses, of course, particularly when their male bosses are treating them poorly. As New Yorker TV Critic Emily Nussbaum put it on Twitter, this response was about more more than just the sanctity of the writer's room (or ethics in journalism, as it were):
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