Since President Donald Trump began his presidential campaign in 2015, the idea of “fake news” and dishonest media has run rampant. Journalism and journalists have been smeared as untrustworthy.
For me, Golden Globe nominated film “The Post” highlighted all of the reasons why those ideas are anything but true.
Set in the 1970s, “The Post” follows The Washington Post as it navigates how to cover the leakage of the Pentagon Papers, a set of documents that revealed the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of its actions in the Vietnam War with bombing attacks, none of which were reported to the mainstream media. The Papers also revealed that the U.S. government was aware that it likely wouldn’t win the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration, which was in office at the time, ordered The Washington Post and The New York Times to stop publishing the papers and took them to court.
As a journalist, I was fascinated by how “The Post” handled the reception of the papers and the ways they covered the scandal. Even more than that, I was intrigued and inspired by how members of The Washington Post encountered the problems of freedom of speech and politicans trying to quiet the media — which as most people know, are extremely potent in our society today.
This film reiterated how important it is for journalism to exist. It paints a picture for those who do not understand the behind-the-scenes of journalism and the ethical questions journalists ask themselves each and every day.
On my first day of Journalistic Writing, Gonzaga University’s intro level journalism class, my professor handed out the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and had us read it all, making sure we understood the responsibilities we would be taking on by pursuing a career in journalism.
Three of the codes that I hold closest to my heart are:
“Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government. Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.”
“Balance the public’s need for information against potential harm or discomfort. Pursuit of the news is not a license for arrogance or undue intrusiveness.”
“Show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage. Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with juveniles, victims of sex crimes, and sources of subjects who are inexperienced or unable to give consent. Consider cultural differences in approach and treatment.”
I don’t know if every publication in the world uses this exact code of ethics, but I do know they have one. And that is extremely important for non-journalists to know. It is important for critics of journalism to know that we are not spending our time and livelihood spreading “fake news,” slander and libel to get what we want.
We consider ourselves public servants. We want to be a voice for the voiceless and let the people in our communities — at GU, in the U.S. and in the world — know what is going on when others will try and shut the public out.
“The Post” illustrates that.
“The Post” shows that people in the journalism field are willing to put their careers and lives on the line for something greater than themselves.
After watching this film, I walked out of the theater feeling the most proud I have ever been to call myself a journalist. To me, this film reiterated that — despite what is going on in our political climate or what our president says about journalists and the fake news and liberal media — we are here for a reason and what we do is not fictional in any way, shape, or form.
Both The New York Times and The Washington Post survived one presidential administration that tried to destroy them, and the publications thrived instead of suffered. “The Post” revealed to me that as long as I keep my head on straight and continue to work hard and follow my code of ethics, I will have a job waiting for me after I graduate in 2019.
“The Post” also gave me a new motivation, as I will be interning with The Washington Post this summer. Seeing the resistance and persistence that took place in the newsroom where I will be brings me a sense of honor.
I am trying to have the same level of honesty and integrity that Ben Bradlee and Katharine Graham (the characters portrayed in the film by Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep) had in “The Post” to my internship this summer. I hope to carry on their message of freedom of speech and resilience in a culture of resistence and animosity.
Kendra Andrews is a sports editor. Follow her on Twitter @kendra__andrews