By Jill Serjeant
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin on Wednesday vigorously defended his controversial show set in a fictional cable TV newsroom, and refuted reports that he fired his writing staff.
Sorkin said that "Newsroom," which mixes real news stories with fictional characters in a workplace drama, was not intended to thumb its nose at the way established television channels have covered big news events.
Sorkin, creator of the idealistic White House drama "The West Wing" and the award-winning screenplay writer of Facebook movie "The Social Network," also told journalists that the next episode of "Newsroom" will deal with the capture and killing by U.S. forces in 2011 of Osama bin Laden.
"Newsroom" has been one of the most talked about new shows on U.S. television since its debut on HBO in June, with critics and fans divided over its utopian portrait of what TV news could be and its portrayal of news reporters.
"I have only ever tried to write the way I write," Sorkin told the Television Critics Association. "I haven't tried to figure out what most people will like, and then give it to them. I try to write what I like, and what I think my friends will like, and then I keep my fingers crossed that enough other people will like it that I can keep doing it."
"Anytime people are talking this much about a TV show is good for television, good for people who watch and good for people who work in television," he said.
Sorkin took the opportunity to deny a media report last month that claimed he had fired the writing staff for the show's second season, which has already been ordered by HBO.
"The writing staff was not fired. ... Seeing that in print has scared the hell out of the writers. They are coming to work early and being polite to me. I love the writing staff. I think they are a fantastic group," he said.
Sorkin's use of recent news events, including the 2011 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear reactor meltdown, and the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, has offended many journalists because he appears to be critical of reporting and errors made while reporting breaking news.
"I didn't want to make up fake news. I didn't feel we would be able to relate to fake news," Sorkin said. But he added, "I didn't do it so I could leverage hindsight, so I could make our characters smarter."
Sorkin also shrugged off criticism that his female characters mess up more on their jobs than the male journalists, saying all the characters in the show were deeply flawed.
And he said the first season has already been filmed, so he could not make changes even if he wanted to.
Jeff Daniels plays cranky TV anchorman Will McAvoy, who is on a mission to present the news without commercial or corporate obstacles. Daniels has made clear he had no time for critics.
"It took me a long time as an actor to stop reading you," Daniels told the TV critics on Wednesday. "If Aaron is happy, if HBO is happy, and I am happy when I leave the set, I hate to say it is great. ... There is nothing you can tell me, I am sorry to say, that will help me as an actor."
(Reporting By Jill Serjeant; Editing by Stacey Joyce)