A friend of mine writes that he is fearful of watching the film “The Post.” He doesn’t want to sob out loud over what he describes as the demise of a noble craft and the state of play in the nation today.
“The Post” tells the story of the Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers, which documented the deceit and deception that guided U.S. policy in fighting the Vietnam War. It stars Meryl Streep as Post publisher Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks as the paper’s editor, Ben Bradlee.
I admire my friend greatly and he knows of my great personal affection and professional respect for him.
I want to differ just a bit with his analysis of the film and what it might to do to his state of mind. I want to see the film, because I want to remember the excitement I felt reporting on communities where I lived and worked; I want to remember how much satisfaction I received while chronicling the communities’ progress.
Yes, there were times when I was working as a reporter and later, as an editor, when I sweated telling the tough stories about officials’ conduct. I never felt comfortable doing it, but I usually found a way to suck it up, take a deep breath and plod ahead in pursuit of the mission.
One story stands out. It involved a young businessman in Amarillo who, shortly after leaving the City Commission, secured a grant from the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which offered taxpayer funds for start-up businesses. We perceived that the former city commissioner might have used his influence improperly to secure the grant. We decided to call him on it with an editorial that called for a change in the way the EDC vetted those grant applications.
I told the ex-commissioner that we would comment on the grant and that he might not like what we had to say. “When am I going to become just a private citizen?” he asked with more than a touch of anger in his voice. I responded, “When you stop taking public money.”
Oh, and the EDC did rework its grant application and approval process. Mission accomplished!
Yes, the media have taken a vastly different turn since those days. Newspapers, as many old-school journalists knew them, are fading faster than yesterday’s news.
However, I wouldn’t surrender a single day for the career I chose to pursue after I returned home in 1970 from my stint in the U.S. Army. It was a hell of a great ride. It was full of adventure, a bit of chaos. It exposed me to the most interesting people imaginable. It allowed me to travel to exotic places. I made many lasting friendships and I learned from many mentors along the way.
Will watching “The Post” sadden me? Not for an instant. It will make me proud to have been a small part of a grand craft.