thomas sadoski hbo 'The Newsroom's' rape subplot doesn't sit well with writer or fans

“The Newsroom” has landed itself in the middle of controversy after its penultimate episode. “Oh Shenandoah” features a plot that focusing on a college campus rape.
In the episode, a producer for the fictitious ACN News (Thomas Sadoski) tracks down college student Mary, a rape victim who runs a website that lets women anonymously share their experiences with sexual assault. During the course of the episode, the producer questions Mary about her rape.
This all comes the weekend after Rolling Stone apologized for their story about an alleged rape at the University of Virginia, after learning of discrepancies in the account of the story they were given. With that story dominating news over the weekend, it should come as no surprise that the “Newsroom” story garnered so much attention.
What might not be as expected was one of the show’s writers speaking out about it, though. In a series of tweets, writer Alena Smith revealed she was “kicked out” of the writers’ room when she objected to the storyline.

Creator, executive producer and head writer Aaron Sorkin then released a statement recounting his version of that day and his belief that Smith had violated the trust and confidentiality of a writers’ room by tweeting about the experience. You can see his full statement below. via Mediaite.
“Let me take a moment to say that I understand that the story in last night’s episode (305-‘Oh Shenandoah’) about Don trying to persuade a Princeton student named Mary (Sarah Sutherland) not to engage in a ‘Crossfire’-style segment on his show has catalyzed some passionate debate this morning. I’m happy to hear it.

It catalyzed some passionate debate in our writers room too. Arguments in the writers room at The Newsroom are not only common, they’re encouraged. The staff’s ability to argue with each other and with me about issues ranging from journalistic freedom vs. national security to whether or not Kat Dennings should come back and save the company is one of their greatest assets and something I look for during the hiring process. Ultimately I have to go into a room by myself and write the show but before I do I spend many days listening to, participating in and stoking these arguments. As with any show, I have to create a safe environment where people can disagree and no one fears having their voice drowned out or, worse, mocked.

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.”

Many who tuned into “The Newsroom” weren’t ad concerned with Sorkin’s response to a writer speaking out, as they were to the content of the episode itself. They used Twitter to share their thoughts, wondering why the episode played out as it did.

There’s only one episode of “The Newsroom” left, airing Sunday, Dec. 14, at 9 P.M. ET/PT on HBO.