After spending the day doing an old school Saturday cleaning of my house, I needed a treat, so I took myself to see Steven Spielberg’s The Post. The film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks as Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee respectively as they decide to publish what became known as the Pentagon Papers that detailed how the government had lied about the nation’s conflagration in Vietnam for decades.
I would venture that most people enter the film knowing full well what is going to happen, which makes it odd that we would still spend $10.95 to watch it play out. However, the drama leading up to the decision to publish the story is riveting. Perhaps the story of the press versus the president is one we all know too well in 2018.
At the end of the film, even though I enjoyed it, I was sad. A few days before I saw the film I saw this tweet from San Francisco Chronicle education writer Jill Tucker:
The Bay Area News Group owns the East Bay Times, which is the reconfigured version of the defunct newspaper I grew up with – The Oakland Tribune. The film reminds you that the newspaper business is both an entity to inform the public and a business. Both and. The former does not exist if the latter cannot function.
What does any of this have to do with students, which is generally what I talk about in this space?
First, we have to buy subscriptions to at least one newspaper. If we want people to keep producing stories such as the one that brought down Harvey Weinstein, and reinvigorated Tarana Burke’s “Me Too” movement, then those journalists need to be paid their proper coins. That only happens if people actually buy the paper in some form whether through a physical subscription or an online one. Future students cannot join a field that no longer exists
Second, we have to figure out how our universities can help low-income students take an unpaid internship. The fact that so many industries require at least one summer of unpaid labor to get a foot into the door is odious, and is something that we should work to abolish. However, in the meantime, great students, with the potential to tell new stories, are locked out. One of the interesting things one of my former employers did was solicit donations for a fund to give students funds to live on while they completed these unpaid internships.
I was torn between taking a break to watch a film that would make me laugh such as Jumanji, or going to see something serious, and I am glad I took the road less traveled. I highly recommend seeing The Post even with a full-priced evening ticket. It will remind you that the free press is not free, and we had better pony our money up if we want to continue getting the stories that we need to maintain our democracy.