Katharine Graham is a 1970s female newspaper publisher working in a man’s world. Her board at The Washington Post is all male. Her newsroom is nearly all male. And when she chats on the phone with a politician or big wig, it is almost always – you guessed it – with a man.
Few people believe she’s qualified, but perhaps that’s to be expected. She was handed the position only after her father and then her husband, Phil – both publishers of the newspaper – passed away. With the newspaper being family-owned, she was next in line.
“The only reason she’s running the paper is because Phil died,” a board member says.
But despite her inexperience, she has a big decision to make. The Post’s reporters have dug up a secret copy of the so-called Pentagon Papers – a lengthy government-commissioned study that showed (among other things) the U.S. intensified its involvement in the Vietnam War despite major doubts it would succeed.
Even before The Washington Post uncovered the documents, a federal judge had issued an injunction stopping The New York Times from reporting on the Pentagon Papers for fear it would harm national defense interests.
Will Graham allow Post editor Ben Bradlee to publish his reporters’ stories about the Pentagon Papers in defiance of a judge’s order – an action that could land her and Bradlee in jail?
It’s all part of the new movie The Post (PG-13), which is in theaters and stars Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and recounts the story of The Washington Post’s decision to publish stories about the Pentagon Papers – stories that sparked a Supreme Court hearing and victory over the Nixon White House.
Here’s what parents should know:
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