The Washington Post has acquired the Pentagon Papers, the New York Times is gagged, powerful men are against her – will Katharine Graham do it? Will she risk her newspaper’s future, her friendships and allegiances, her family’s legacy? Most important, will she find her voice? The climactic scene in Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated The Post gets the full Meryl Streep treatment. So far in the movie we have seen Graham ignored, interrupted and silenced. She hesitates, fumbles, is uncomfortable in her clothes. The scene suggests that we are witness not only to the victory of a free press, but also the coming into being of a powerful woman.
The late Antonio Tabucchi's novel Sostiene Pereira is set in Lisbon in the summer of 1938. The protagonist, Pereira, is a journalist, a veteran reporter on a national daily who now edits the culture page of Lisboa. The paper describes itself as 'apolitical' (which means it doesn't cover the Spanish Civil War) and 'independent' (it prints what the Salazar regime would like it to without having to be asked). Pereira is a widower; his closest confidant is the portrait of his wife that hangs in his hallway. He's overweight, and has a heart condition, not helped by his fondness for omelettes and sugary lemonade. His semi-retired routine is disturbed when he hires a young man, Monteiro Rossi, to prepare obituaries of famous writers. Rossi's pieces – either attacking Fascist writers or praising left-wing ones – are all unpublishable. But Pereira pays Rossi for them anyway and puts them away in a folder. Eventually he gets drawn into helping hide Rossi's cousin, who's in Portugal recruiting for the Republican cause in Spain, and as one thing leads to another Pereira soon finds himself in serious trouble with the authorities.