I saw The Post and got fired up about journalism

Joel’s Journal - January 18, 2018 - Volume 3 - Entry #18 

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M and I had an early birthday celebration today.

After we both got off work, we grabbed the subway down to the Eaton Centre to do a little shopping and to grab dinner. M bought me a pair of glorious Vans I’ve been pining after for some time, and then we had a delicious dinner in Yonge and Dundas Square. 

After the dinner, we ran across the street to catch our 7:20 showtime of The Post. 

Now, the regular readers of this blog will know my affinity for any movie about journalism and centred around reporters. I’m sure I’m not alone in that when it comes to those in the industry. It’s always nice to see your profession portrayed on the big screen, especially when they’re the heroes and especially when things get romanticized a bit (or a lot, in the case of The Post). 

A lot of my favourite films are journalism flicks. All the President’s Men, Spotlight, State of Play, and now The Post. It’s kind of silly to say, because it’s based on a true story, and anyone who has knowledge of the Pentagon Papers, and what happened, will know the details of this movie, but I’ll just say it anywhere, the following paragraphs will have spoilers for this movie. 

For those uninformed, the movie centres around The Washington Post and the newspaper decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, a treasure trove of classified documents from the United States government detailing hidden information about the Vietnam War, perhaps most damning of which, was the fact that for years, the US government knew they couldn’t win the war, but still sent young men to die because they couldn’t stand the humiliation of a US defeat. 

True story. 

At the time, the New York Times had received the documents first, but President Nixon had the Attorney General issue a cease and desist of sorts that noted if the Times continued to publish the documents, they could be charged. 

So, when the Post received the documents, there was a lot on the line for them to go ahead and publish. However, when they did, the entire industry came together and started publishing, despite the president’s wishes. This scandal was only a short time before the Watergate scandal and things really went downhill for Nixon. 

Anyway, the movie was fantastic, and had a lot of good discussion and dialogue about the importance of freedom of the press and the role of journalists in our society, lessons and topics that are still VERY MUCH relevant in today’s age of fake news and the current president’s constant attack on the journalism industry. 

As I’ve written before, I got into journalism to tell stories, that was the spark, but what made me absolutely fall in love with this job is the responsibility that comes along with calling yourself a journalist. 

And that responsibility is to tell stories honestly, ethically, and without regard for whoever may NOT want the story to be published. Your responsibility is to the people of the city in which you work, and ensuring that they get the truth, and perhaps most importantly, your job is to keep an eye on those in power, because as Tom Hanks (portraying Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee) says, “if we don’t hold the accountable, by god, who will?”

As I said, the movie got me a little fired up. 

With that said, I just want to add. If you see this movie, and it has the same impact on you. I challenge you to turn your mind to the present, and invest in quality journalism. Whether that’s buying a print product, subscribing to your local paper, or getting a magazine subscription. Whatever it is, the work that journalists do is tough, and the pressures are constant, people need to start understanding that it’s not a free service. 

Thanks for reading!

J.J.W. 

Joel Wittnebel