'The Post' reminds us that journalism and democracy will not die in times of darkness

“If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?” Ben Bradlee said to Katherine Graham as they pondered over the idea of releasing 30 years of the federal governments classified reports. “We can’t hold them accountable if we don’t have a newspaper,” Kay Graham said. A few short hours later, Ms. Graham gave editor Ben Bradlee the go ahead and The Washington Post printed over a million copies releasing the Pentagon Papers.

If anyone is wondering when our trust in the federal government really went to shit, it was in 1971 when Daniel Ellsberg released the first set of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times. These papers leaked government secrets that spanned three decades and four U.S. presidents. Secrets such as the Vietnam war, and how the government had been lying for years about how the war was going. Thousands of young boys were being sent over to fight the war, Ms. Grahams son included. Instead of the government admitting to failure they continued to send boys. The papers revealed that the presidents knew how the war was going, but none of them wanted a defeat to be under their name.

One can imagine the public's response when first reading the papers in The New York Times. The response was so loud that the federal government took The Times to court. Sounds like an infringement of the first amendment, wouldn’t you say? While The Times was wrapped up in court Ellsberg leaked the papers to The Post. At that time Katherine Graham, the owner of The Washington Post had to make a decision. To release the papers and face prosecution or to not release the papers and have the paper be a failure to the people of the United States.

Years after the release of the papers the film The Post hits the big screen. Not another film since All The President’s Men has so well captured journalists process of uncovering the truth behind a corrupt government. Big names filled big shoes as Tom Hanks played Ben Bradlee and Meryl Streep played Katherine Graham. The two leads did phenomenal.

Streep portrayed Ms. Graham with power and grace, far better than any other leading lady could have. Streeps character, Ms. Graham is not awfully heard of as much as Daniel Ellsberg or other figures. However, she deserves to be remembered from her work with the Pentagon Papers to the Watergate Scandal. Not to mention, she was one of the only if not the only woman to hold CEO of such a company at that time. She faced judgment by men who thought she was not fit for the role. However, she bypassed all of their expectations when she decided to give the go ahead for the papers causing The Post to come into national prominence where it has since stayed.

Hanks portrayed the steadfast editor Ben Bradlee. Bradlee could be seen as one of the most passionate journalists for adhering to the journalistic code of ethics. Hanks brought the character to life with his charisma and flare while staying true to what mattered most to Bradlee, uncovering the truth, getting a story and telling that story.

As someone who is passionate about journalism and is studying it the movie hit all the right spots. It showed the process of chasing a story, the obstacles you have to overcome, and the feeling of success of a story. The film may have been roughly two hours long, but it never made you question when was it going to end. I found myself (quietly as I was in a theater) clap at times when the characters were able to get a lead or when they won the court case.

As all journalist know a story is never really truly over, there is always more to be said and more to be known. Reaching the end of the film you see a young police officer realizing the Democratic National Committee office has been breached. Only to find out that he is not alone in the office, and well I’ll leave it to history to tell you the rest.

Leaving the theater that night I was in awe. In awe at the people that came before me. Those who made me love my chosen profession more. The people who lit a fire in me that made me want to go home and write a story.