The Oakland Post

Letter from the Editor: “The Post” and journalism today

Shelby Tankersley, Editor-in-Chief

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Hey readers,

In the Department of Journalism, we love a good newspaper flick. I remember taking Media Ethics with Director of Journalism, Garry Gilbert (who is also our editorial adviser here at The Post) shortly after “Spotlight” came out. Garry talked about the film’s events more than once in class. My friend Erin Ben-Moche, the news director for WXOU, and I were chatting a few weeks ago and she remembers excitedly emailing Garry after she saw the movie because it was going to “change the way people see journalism.”

And it did. Aside from getting fantastic reviews, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. I remember hearing the news and being thrilled that a film about investigative journalism had won one of the highest honors it could. As a 19-year-old, it made me excited to be entering such an exciting field.

My, how times have changed.

I walked into the movie theatre to see “The Post” feeling less excited and more anxious. Set during the Richard Nixon Administration, the film takes place in a time when journalism was seen as an enemy more than a resource. “The Post” could be set in 2018 and there would be almost no change in the themes and tension. Walking out of the theatre, I got thinking about how the film relates to journalism today.

Women in leadership

Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) plays a huge role in the film as The Washington Post’s first female publisher. If you haven’t seen the film, Streep portrays a woman surrounded almost entirely by men. Living in her husband’s shadow, we see Graham work up the moxy to stand up and be what she is: the boss.

As the lady-boss of a (student) newspaper, I found Streep’s portrayal inspiring. It makes me happy to have so many gals on my staff when I know that journalism was a massively male-dominated field not too long ago. Graham’s story is encouraging by showing how standing up for one’s self can make all the difference in the world.

In one scene, Graham is arguing with her male counterparts about whether or not to publish The Pentagon Papers that held military secrets. From the men’s side, the answer is a resounding no. Graham proceeds to remind them all who is in charge before calmly telling them, “Now, I’m going to bed.” After she delivered that line, the theatre-goers around me started to applaud.

She gains her confidence, and those below her fall in line. Especially with the recent Time’s-Up initiative, it’s my hope that ladies will be inspired by Graham and achieve great things.

Newspapers and the U.S. President

“The President is taking a giant sh*t all over the First Amendment.”

This is where it hits too close to home. The film ends with Nixon on the phone telling his staff that The Post is to have no access to The White House. Sound familiar?

In 2017, a record-setting 262 journalists were imprisoned across the world for doing their jobs. The common accusation was, you guessed it, fake news.

None of these imprisoned journalists are in the United States because that would violate the Constitution. However, the anti-journalism rhetoric led by President Donald Trump has given people an excuse to call journalists liars or biased whenever they report on something unfavorable.

Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), The Post’s EIC, publishes The Pentagon Papers knowing full-well he could be sent to prison. However, he contends that, “The best way to assert the right to publish is to publish.” Graham’s male counterparts mentioned earlier are against publication because they’re afraid of the legal and monetary consequences. Today, the reality of the President attempting to ruin the reputation of those he doesn’t like is all too common.

We here at The (other) Post stand with Graham and Bradlee. After all,

“If we don’t hold them accountable, who will?”

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Oakland University's independent student newspaper.