It’s 1971. The Washington Post staff awaits the Supreme Court decision following New York Times, Co. v United States, where the Nixon administration took the Times and the Post to court for publication of the “Pentagon Papers.”
Editorial writer Meg Greenfield (portrayed by Carrie Coon) repeats Justice Hugo Black’s concurring opinion to the newsroom:
“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.”
These words sent a chill up my spine. It was a feeling I’m pleased to say was not uncommon while watching “The Post.”
The film directed by Steven Spielberg follows the story of The Washington Post after scandal erupts across the nation. Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst, has discreetly photocopied classified military reports regarding the Vietnam war.
The papers indicate past administrations’ resistance to ending the Vietnam War, even when the outcome looked forlorn.
This film was empowering in many ways.
Seeing a classic printing press in motion and hearing the keys of typewriters chime made me want to get up to write.
The unnerving foil of a president’s scorn with the media was a weighted reminder that 47 years later, in a similar climate, a free press has an obligation to its readers to reveal truth – no matter how despairing.
It is also a reminder to citizens outside of the press to seek the truth.
The Washington Post, inherited by Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) is in the midst of positioning itself to become a publicly-traded newspaper, while cowboy executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) aims to compete with The New York Times.
Graham must handle these growing pains at a time when it seems every person around her has no faith she can do it, or that she even should do it.
Her bravery comes down to one moment. She’s not rude, she’s not loud – mannerisms so many writers have confused as required characteristics of strong females.
Streep’s vulnerability at the moment before she must decide whether to send the paper to print or not is an illuminating peak of her character arch. She finally stands up for herself and her company in the end.
It came as a relief to me. You don’t always have to be sure in order to be strong. You are not weak because you feel.
“The Post” is in theaters now.