The headline in The New York Times Arts section on Tuesday should not have been "Rape Plot of Show on HBO Raises Ire"; it should have been "Rape Plot of Show on HBO Raises Important Questions." The subtitle might have added "As Few TV Shows Do."


Aaron Sorkin is by far the best writer for television and movies because he entertains while he raises issues worthy of discussion, thought and debate. That is precisely what he did on last Sunday's episode of "The Newsroom," dealing with journalists' duties to protect sources, and how to deal with rape accusations — both current events — while also keeping his audience wondering when the two young lovers on staff will finally come together.

Sexual assaults in the military and on college campuses have been in the news recently, and as he showed in his classic "West Wing" series, Sorkin uses current events to dramatize issues we all care about, have views about and which need exploration. Sorkin compares the ethics of the legal system and that of media in the "The Newsroom" episode through conversations among media professionals on how to deal with the issue on air, and in a provocative conversation with a reluctant, and I might add arrogant, producer and the alleged victim about going public with her charges.

I disagree with the critic who argued there couldn't be a worse time to air this episode while the University of Virginia case is ongoing; I think it is the best time to do so. I am troubled by these issues as I follow current debates, and welcome drama that makes me (and the general public) think about the hard choices in sensitive issues in our society. That is drama at its best. It is easy to deal with the obvious issues: Who isn't against rape? What we have to face, as police, media and critics all do, is how to deal with the hard issues: How to decide "he-says-she-says" disputes? What is the role of media in portraying these instances, like the Duke lacrosse case where the alleged offenders were the ones victimized by inbred assumptions that turned out to be wrong? How to properly deal with charges in cases where public perceptions and private concerns are so emotional and volatile?

Hail Aaron Sorkin for avoiding the knee-jerk nonsense that characterizes cable news discussions, and the predictable partisans who see proof of their own biases everywhere, and facing up to an important issue that needs exploration.

Goldfarb is a Washington and Key Biscayne, Fla.-based attorney, author and literary agent who writes frequently on criminal justice issues.