A Familiar Battle Between Press and Government


Staff Writer

The sound of typewriters, smoke from cigarettes and anxiety of reporters ll a ‘70s newsroom in Steven Spielberg’s “The Post.”

Starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, “The Post” depicts the true story of how The Washington Post followed The New York Times in uncovering highly classified government secrets, The Pentagon Papers, where, over the course of three decades and four presidents, the government withheld information from the public about the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

This political thriller film couldn’t have been released at a more vital time in history. The integrity of journalism is struggling, and newspapers are fighting to have a voice, to defend and inform the public and to honor the truth.

“The Post” is an all- around beautifully directed, written and casted lm, but what makes it truly great is the timeliness in the context of today’s political climate. The relevance between the battle of recognizing the First Amendment and the silencing from the government is all too familiar.

Katharine Graham, played by Streep, was the first female publisher of a major American newspaper, and Ben Bradlee, played by Hanks, was The Washington Post’s editor. Graham inherited the job of publisher from her husband after he committed suicide.

Graham’s character starts o insecure and scared, silenced by powerful men all around her. She holds a position of such importance, yet is completely washed onto the sidelines as men speak for her. The character development portrayed by Streep was tremendous, as the viewers witness her become a strong woman walking out of the Supreme Court with confidence.

After Bradlee gets hold of the Pentagon Papers from the same source as The New York Times, whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the decision is left to Graham whether or not to publish.

The New York Times published a portion of the papers and were immediately silenced by President Richard Nixon and his administration.

Attorney General John Mitchell accused The Times of violating the Espionage Act and were ordered to stop publishing until trial. Graham knew The Post would be put alongside The Times in court if she went through with publishing.

By publishing the papers, not only did the newspaper

risk its existence, but Graham risked the loss of her family legacy. Her closest friends were former presidents, she had dinner parties with half of the White House and vacationed with Lyndon Johnson.

By publishing, she was exposing every single one of her friends and losing her reputation as an elite.

The anxiety and deep conflict that Graham and the others experienced in making the decision proved that journalism is much more than writing a story and publishing it – there are real stakes.

In a room full of men telling her no, the words, “Let’s do it, let’s publish,” quivered anxiously out of Graham’s mouth. That is the moment that not only makes Graham the legendary woman she will be remembered as, but sets the tone for what journalism truly is about. There is nothing more precious than the truth.

“‘The Post’ casts a wide net, covering Vietnam, the women’s movement, the clubby proximity of the political and publishing circles in D.C., and (especially) the parallels between Nixon’s White House and the Trump presidency,” The Chicago Tribune wrote.

In a time where the field is accused of delivering fake news, the message of “The Post” needs to be heard. It is not only an entertaining and thrilling movie with humor, grief and love, but it’s also important.

“In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors,” Judge Hugo Black said in the Supreme Court’s ruling in the New York Times v. United States case in 1971.