Nights In

All The President’s Men: Putting the Spotlight on The Post

Have you got the papers? That is a question that all of us have been asked at one time or another. It is a question that sets the tone of Steven Spielberg’s latest cinematic offering, The Post.

In it, Meryl Streep plays Katherine Graham, a career socialite who inherited the publishing business of her late husband, who took on the role given to him by Katherine’s father, upon his retirement. It is a small detail, but it is an important one, one that would change history.

The publishing world of the 1970’s in America was not a hospitable place. What little respect Katherine had received from her employees and her board of Trustees was out of respect these men had for her late husband. This is with the exception of her Washington Post Editor, Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks). Well, that is when he’s not telling her to “stay out of my damn business!”

When government secrets about a sanctioned study on the merits of the United States involvement in the Vietnam War are leaked, a media frenzy is sparked with every newspaper wanting to get to the story first. Bradlee and Ben Bagdikian believe they know who the source is and wrangle a team together to get the papers (more than 4,000 uncollated papers – your FYP is not sounding too hard now, is it?).

Neil Sheehan at the New York Times broke the story, but the Supreme Court had gagged them from printing any more information as it could decimate U.S. national security. But Bradlee and Bagdikian, from the same office as Woodward and Bernstein, believe the right to freedom of speech leads to freedom of the press, so they must print the papers.

Enter Katherine Graham with the mother and father of all decisions to make; publish and be held in contempt of court – serious jail time – or scrap the legacy that her father built from the ground up, a legacy that has seen her rub shoulders with Senators and Presidents for as long as anyone can recall.

I have been fascinated by investigative journalism, or at least as its portrayed in film, since I first saw All The Presidents Men, about seventeen years ago. In it, Redford and Hoffman play Woodward and Bernstein, the pair who investigated President Nixon’s involvement in the Watergate scandal.

The pace of The Post is much faster than All the President’s Men, and there are no real shady characters like Deepthroat, apart from maybe Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood) and the few times we hear from disgraced former President Richard Nixon.

There have been many great films about journalism and political corruption since then. Oliver Stone brought us JFK, a figure mentioned in The Post. Alan J. Pakula brought us All The President’s Men, from the memoirs of Woodward and Bernstein.
Most recently Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, (the latter was a consultant on The Post), brought us Spotlight, the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigative team who spent months if not years, lifting the lid on the cover up of sexual assault of children by the local Catholic Archdiocese, which went on for decades, “Shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.” (IMDB.COM).

See the trailer for The Post here .

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