Why Aaron Sorkin Is Right About the Huffington Post

'The Newsroom' scribe gets it right in worrying about the impact of our snark-infested culture

Aaron Sorkin
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

During a panel discussion earlier this week previewing the new TV season, I worried, in regard to journalism, that “the metabolism of the Web is making us stupid.”

Aaron Sorkin is equally concerned — and just as accurate — when he suggests the same culture is making us nastier as well.

Now, I’ve been among the chorus of critical voices regarding Sorkin’s HBO series, “The Newsroom.” But that shouldn’t diminish his insights as a media observer, which have been honed through years of dramatized analysis, from “Sports Night” to “The West Wing,” “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” to “The Newsroom.”

Certainly, it’s hard to argue with Huffington Post’s knack for generating traffic, so much so that its cryptic headlines and teases have given birth to a feed designed strictly to decode and spoil them.

But it only reinforces Sorkin’s case, frankly, to see HuffPo staffers respond to his comments, as quoted in Mother Jones, with volleys of snark, as if there’s no room for legitimate criticism or self-reflection regarding the manner in which they operate.

It’s worth noting, too, that Huffington Post and Sorkin should be ideological allies, inasmuch as both tilt toward progressive politics. So his broadside is all about the site’s excesses, and not so easily dismissed as just another partisan skirmish. (Incidentally, this isn’t the first time Sorkin has lamented the steady slide of media standards, having weighed in a few years ago regarding how the media has “de-creepyized voyeurism” in a piece via — wait for it — the Huffington Post.)

Of course, even bothering to raise these questions risks being branded a fuddy-duddy, and railing against the influence of the Web, at this point, does have an obvious “You kids get off my lawn” quality. It’s simply a no-win situation, however good it might feel (especially if you have your own TV show) to vent about it, as Sorkin did by having “The Newsroom’s” protagonist say, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit, and we’re being polluted by it.”

Still, just because you can’t change things doesn’t mean you have no right to gripe about them. And whatever I might think about “The Newsroom,” Sorkin deserves credit for having the guts to wade into these snark-infested waters.