As I sit here staring at my vintage Underwood typewriter, my mind drifts back to a time revisited in Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece, The Post. Forgive me for being nostalgic, but with all that’s been happening in the world, a little fantasy time travel doesn’t seem like such a bad idea.
The year is 1971. A little girl pounds her index fingers on the manual typewriter in an empty newsroom, feet dangling from the swivel chair. The silence is interrupted by the staccato sound of the keys making contact with the paper, with a carriage return flourish at the end of each line.
She grew up the daughter of an old-school, roll-up-your-sleeves broadcast journalist. A booming baritone with an Edward R. Murrow appearance and delivery, he was the quintessential newsman on the brink of a seismic shift. News, at the time, had to be objective. There was no room for opinion; that was saved for the occasional editorial. Any hint of bias was taboo. If a reporter tried to become part of the story (or worse, became the story itself), that was a cardinal sin.
It was before Watergate, but after the race riots, women’s movement, and Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations punctuated the turbulent 60s. And in Washington, trouble was brewing.
In June 1971, The Washington Post received copies of the classified Pentagon Papers from a reliable source. Post reporters frantically gathered at editor Ben Bradlee’s house where they combed through their contents, uncovering the then-shocking revelation that presidents since Harry Truman had been concealing truths about the conflict in Vietnam—and lied to the American public about it for years. The Justice Department tried to stop the Post and its rival, The New York Times, from publishing the story, citing a violation of the Espionage Act and a risk to national security. Post publisher Katharine Graham, the first female American newspaper publisher, made a brave decision—risking everything—to publish the story. Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the right to publish—a major victory for freedom of the press.
It was a pivotal decision—one whose echoes resound today. In the current climate of “opinion journalism” and “fake news,” it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Stories are polarized depending on which news outlet you choose. As a result, many organizations are opting to share their own stories, and they’re doing it across all platforms—websites, blogs, social media, e-newsletters, podcasts, and more. Here are some tips on how to be successful in creating owned content:
In memory of Chuck Stevens, father, grandfather, retired executive news editor, WPIX-TV Channel 11, New York City, and longtime anchor/reporter WHEC-TV and radio, Rochester, NY.
Insights, from us to you.