“The Post” Is Prologue

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Like the joke about the sunburned zebra “The Post” – opening Friday – revisits the days when newspapers were read all over.

streepIt’s been called newspaper porn for its scenes of rolling presses, the rat-a-tat-tat of typewriters, pressmen in paper hats, men throwing the latest edition from moving trucks to curbside vendors.

One observer gushed about a scene where a copy chief editing a groundbreaking story on deadline scratches out the very first sentence.

That’s authenticity. The premise is less so.The Washington Post was a supporting player in reporting the Pentagon Papers, chronicling US involvement in Vietnam.

They followed suit after the New York Times broke the story, but also faced legal jeopardy in doing so. It was the first challenge for Katherine Graham, played by Meryl Streep, who became publisher after her husband committed suicide and could have caused financial ruin.

Instead they are making movies about it. The Steven Spielberg film occurs at the intersection of media and politics. It wonders, would the courts support freedom of the press today? And would half the public consider the Pentagon Papers #fakenews?

shanksBut “The Post” is more effective showing Graham’s evolution as a leader, from being mansplained by her board of directors, to erring on the side of the First Amendment with guidance from Tom Hanks as old school editor Ben Bradlee.

How their friendships with the powerful affected news coverage – Graham with Robert McNamara, Bradlee with JFK – find parallel today with Trump and Murdoch.

And as if to prove the past is prologue, the final scene – spoiler alert – involves the Watergate break in.

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