TIC members met at the Cinecitta to see the Oscar nominated film, The Post. The film, staring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, tells the story of The Washington Post’s decision to publish information from a top secret study regarding the United States’ political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. The report chronicled the U.S. government’s involvement in Vietnam’s affairs – indirectly or directly – by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. The report demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress”. Needless to say, the government of then President Nixon, was not happy with the leaks and tried to prevent publication. Happily, The Washington Post persevered! Little could they have imagined the stories and stature they gained from a “little break-in” of the Watergate hotel only 1 year later.
As we sat in the cozy and crowded bar area of the Cinecitta after the film, we talked about the important role the press played in 1971. With so much talk of “fake news” and “alternative facts” today – certainly in America! – the role of the press seems to have been rather marginalized. What has changed over the years? While there is no one answer, it was noteworthy to see that part of the dilemma “should we publicize?” in the film was due to the recent public sale of Washington Post shares. A strong and almost winning argument against publication was that the investors would not like it. If it caused shareholders to sell their shares, the result would be financial disaster for the cash-strapped paper. Strong leadership in 1971 on the part of The Post’s majority owner Katherine Graham and Editor Ben Bradlee, resulted in publication, but it was a very close call. Can the same be said anno 2018…?
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