Machines could be doing your job

This correspondent has just finished watching the first episode of  HBO’s The Newsroom, Aaron Sorkin’s new show. The show is irrelevant. These are a couple of quick notes about the man who conceived it.

Sorkin is one of the few screenwriters in show business that gets top billing (probably the only one – feel free to name another). Nobody gives a damn who’s directing the thing. Maybe a few will ask out loud “what movie was that guy in again?”, but this is first and foremost a Sorkin joint, in the parlance of Spike Lee.

The other noticeable thing about the show is Sorkin’s visceral hatred of the internet. While it is hard to pinpoint why,  it’s easy to concoct some theories. Maybe it’s the whole disintermediation thing – he could just be feeling threatened by the upcoming multitudes of Aaron Sorkins out there. Or maybe it is just an attempt to get kids to vacate his lawn. If you didn’t figure out how much Sorkin dislikes the internet when you watched The Social Network (a movie whose message amounts to “if that annoying little nerd had gotten properly laid, none of this would ever had happened”), it will become quite clear to you in The Newsroom. There were three clear references to the internet on the first episode. First, Jeff Daniel’s character reacts with absolute disgust when he learns his show has a blog. Second, the chief editor – stories about Vietnamese prostitutes, bow-tie and all – dictates a long missive about the beauty of producing a live news show to the hot social media intern. She informs him she can only use 140 characters, to which the chief editor reacts by kind of rolling his eyes and saying “you’ll figure it out”. And third, as an executive producer requests a short memo on the history and mandate of a government agency to a subordinate, someone else intervenes and says “let me work on that – she will just copy it off Wikipedia” .

It is rich to watch a man using a cable TV show about a cable TV show as a platform to try and kick the internet in the groin, specially considering that cable TV ratings and subscribers have been falling off a cliff:

Decline of cable TV ratings

Decline of cable TV subscribers

It is easy to guess where the lost cable TV viewers and subscribers went. They’re all on the internet. This correspondent could spend hours dissecting the irony of it all, but not much else needs to be said – it’s like the internet is Jack Johnson and Aaron Sorkin has been asked to play the role of the great white hope – and he’s going at it with gusto.

Update: The first episode is available on YouTube.