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The Post: As relevant as ever

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Arriving at the movie theatre to watch The Post, I was at the same time excited and a little afraid: how could I have such high expectations about a movie and not be disappointed? Well, spoiler alert, I was not. In fact, when the movie was over, for the first time in my life, I joined the rest of the theatre in applauding it. Part of it may be because I am a journalist, or a "recovering journalist," as I describe myself these days. Or maybe because I am a woman seeing Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep) always alone in rooms full of men, and growing into the role of The Washington Post's publisher against all odds and despite all pressure. And, of course, there is also the fact that The Post is a good movie regardless of all that. It is undeniable, however, that the impact of the movie is even larger because of the political environment experienced by the US and the world these days.


The movie focuses on the publication of the Pentagon Papers, a government record of then-ongoing Vietnam War, by The Washington Post. More than simply the reporting process, the movie shows the ethical debates taking place inside the newspaper. Also essential to the plot are the competing forces and interests, and the pressure felt by Katharine Graham while deciding if she would allow the publication, even though an injunction had just forbidden The New York Times from doing the same.


The story told in the movie may have happened in 1971, but The Post feels very relevant right now. By focusing on the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, Steven Spielberg reminds us of the importance of independent media and press freedom. It comes at a time when the press is under attack and losing the trust of part of the population, and when the risks faced by the country are compounded by this situation. (The strange thing is that, in my opinion, the quality of journalism, or at least of the main American newspapers, has greatly increased in the past couple of years.) At the end of the movie, it is impossible not to agree and almost cheer when listening to the Supreme Court opinion that the role of the press is “to serve the governed, not the governors.”


Before you run to the theatre to watch the movie, and you should do that ASAP, I have one final comment. A few days ago, I watched All the President's Men again. I wanted to see the time and the treatment given to Katharine Graham in it. You know what I found out? She doesn't appear in the movie at all, and her name is not even mentioned except for in one threat herd by one of the reports over the phone.


It is hard to believe that Katharine Graham didn't have an important role in the Watergate reporting, especially considering that it started soon after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and that the Post's editor was still Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks in The Post), with whom she worked and whom she finally supported in the decision to publish the reporting about the Vietnam War. Yet, it looks like in 1976, when All the President’s Men came out, she wasn’t considered a character relevant enough to be part of the movie.


- Lalu Farias

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