Although many journalists may not have seen the movie The Post, which is now showing in theaters, but it is based on a true story which remains an important source of inspiration for them today.
Journalists of various kinds consider the story as a guide for motivating them toward their cause, which should enable them to reinforce their commitment to their noble vocation.
Personally I have seen a number of good movies that discuss issues faced by the press, but I do not think there has been any as enthralling like this one, which challenges one to join the profession.
In short, the film is based on a true story that took place in the early 1970s when the Washington Post newspaper published confidential documents belonging to the Pentagon over the long drawn out Vietnam War during the Nixon presidency.
Some of these documents were initially published by The New York Times and the government was successful in getting a court injunction against the publication of the remainder. The film revolves around the competitiveness of the American newspapers in 1971 over the publication of these leaked documents, known as The Pentagon Papers.
Press has its own methods and priorities, but at the same time, our press can still have influence, if it is able to exploit these opportunitiesAmjad Almunif
In my view, the movie was made at the perfect time. It finds resonance in the ongoing spat between US President Donald Trump and the media, wherein the President is using new media devices, such as Twitter, to circumvent the Press, a tool which was not available to former presidents.
Moreover, the claims of the falling influence of the press and the emergence of social media as an alternative platform for news have not materialized yet due to the weakness of online content, and its continuing dependence on traditional press material.
I understand that we differ from the West on matters of journalism, but not entirely. Each society has its own particularities and circumstances. The press has its own methods and priorities, but at the same time, our press can still have greater influence, if it is able to exploit these two opportunities: Vision 2030 and the ongoing anti-corruption campaign.
Arab press should get act together
A lot of files needs to be published and various questions raised. I believe that the authorities are supporting of such a role by the press, but it is perhaps the indolence of press institutions themselves, which are trapped in their own complex calculations, and their own semi-bureaucratic work.
The Washington Post has called the movie The Post as a “love story” and as an encouraging recognition of press freedom and gender equality. According to published reports, the newspaper sees The Post as the best movie about the battle of the press against power, since All the President’s Men released in 1976 and the movie Spotlight in 2016.
The question is when would our press understand the upcoming challenges? There is a need to develop real understanding, which does not compromise or condescend.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Amjad Almunif is a Saudi columnist and blogger who writes for al-Riyadh daily. He is also the managing director of SMT Studies Center and executive director of Elleven for communication and public relations. He tweets @Amjad_Almunif.