11 months ago
Of all the honors bestowed on Katharine Graham, perhaps the one that best shows the late, great Washington Post publisher’s place in the annals of journalism is the fact that Meryl Streep is playing her in a biopic.
The Washington Post—particularly editor Ben Bradlee and reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward—have rightfully been feted with recognition and Pulitzers for bringing down President Nixon with coverage of the Watergate scandal. But the publisher making the gutsy decision to greenlight that coverage has been historically less recognized, with the 1976 drama, All the President’s Men, which ignored her key role, as a tragic example.
That changes with the release of the Steven Spielberg-directed The Post this December, which puts the focus on Graham, who died in 2001.
“There are some stories that just don’t leave your consciousness, and this was one of them,” Spielberg told Vogue. “By becoming the first female publisher of a major newspaper, Graham set a new bar for women everywhere, and she was the first of her generation to show people that in the face of enormous pressure, being a bystander was not an option—and it still isn’t.”
And it’s fitting that the Vogue cover story is written by someone who knew Graham for more than 20 years, Kati Marton, former director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. As she chronicles, Graham had taken over the publisher role at her father’s newspaper after her mentally ill husband shot himself to death in the couple’s country house.
“From that inauspicious beginning, as 46-year-old Katharine Meyer Graham was reeling from the violent death of the only man she had ever loved, yet demoralized by 20 years of marriage to him, she was about to surprise the world and herself,” Marton writes.
“On discovering that The Washington Post, salvaged by her father and turned into a serious paper by her husband, had been bled dry during Phil’s turbulent final years, she took a chance and fell in love for a second time. This time it was not with a man but with a profession, to which she gave her all.”