“The Post” Spotlights Past Press Freedoms That Pertain to Present

“The Post” starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep is up two Academy Awards. Fair use photo courtesy of wikipedia.com.

“The Post” starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep is up two Academy Awards. Fair use photo courtesy of wikipedia.com.

Emily Graap

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Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” is a timely lesson that highlights the need for an observant press.

In addition to the important lesson of having an engaged press, Spielberg directs an outstanding ensemble cast, whom deliver an expertly crafted historical drama that informs all about the freedom of the press.

Spielberg’s 70’s-set thriller recollects the revelations of the Pentagon Papers, the detailed reports on how the White House had been lying to the public about the Vietnam War.

The movie opens with military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) witnessing the Vietnam war first hand in the year 1966, and documenting the events taking place around him.

Flashing forward to 1971, Ellsberg’s reports got leaked and made front page of the New York Times, telling the world how the American government had been misleading the American people about the war and also revealing how Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) knew America would not win in 1965, yet he continued to send in American troops.

Richard Nixon, who only makes a voice-cameo appearance, sees to it that the New York Times receives “treasonable action”, meaning the company could not publish any more from the documents or anything else they had learned from them.

Shortly after the New York Times got their hands on Ellsberg’s leaked reports, Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) got into contact with Ellsberg, who was the same source as the New York Times, and was able to gain access to thousands of pages of sensitive documents from the government containing information on the Vietnam War.

Widowed Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) has a close friendship with McNamara, but also juggles the responsibility of being the publisher for the Washington Post. Her editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), is hopeful to publish a story on the leaked Pentagon Papers, despite the repercussions the New York Times faced. Bradlee must convince his publisher, Graham, to publish the articles which would reveal America’s top secrets about the war.

After Graham’s father passed away the business was handed down to her husband, and within time the paper eventually got placed into Graham’s hands after her husband died.

Graham epitomizes the difficulties female bosses face with being undermined or second-guessed. Taking place in the 1970’s, the men surrounding Graham demean her by continuously reminding her that her father gave the paper to her husband, not to her. Throughout the film, Spielberg illustrates Graham as the only woman in the room when dealing with business concerns, which creates a sense of deprivation of her power. As hesitant as Graham may be, she slowly finds her voice becoming increasingly established as the story continues on.

The discovery of her newfound firm voice aids Graham when she is confronted with the tough decision of standing up for what is right, even if it means putting the existence of her beloved paper at risk.

With five being the highest rating, the relevant drama addressing freedom of the press, Steven Spielberg’s The Post, earns a four.

Although The Post does not address current events directly, it relates to the 21st century because the power of the press is being challenged yet again by President Donald Trump. He is testing not only the media, but the “truth” behind the media itself.  The First Amendment declares the freedom of the press and the “essential role of a free press…is to serve the governed, not the governors.”

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