1971. Having assumed ownership and role of publisher following her husband's suicide, it his family's business, Katharine Graham - Kay in more familiar circumstances - is preparing for the Washington Post newspaper's IPO in it facing financial solvency issues. While highly conversant on the issues, she is not confident expressing anything in public, instead deferring to her advisers. Part of her lack of confidence is due to the outside world largely seeing her as a society matron who only knows proverbially how to throw ladies' tea parties. In addition to Kay's issues in ownership, editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee is having his own issues in competing against other newspapers for high profile stories, especially the New York Times. In addition, the White House, in its retaliation for past stories, has shut out the Post from covering Tricia Nixon's wedding, it the only major news organization given the freeze. Although aware that something big is happening, Bradlee is nonetheless irked to read an exclusive in the Times, stemming from top secret documents, that all administrations dating back twenty years had lied to the American public about Vietnam - all presidents effectively using their friendship with news editors to peddle the stories they wanted - they all knowing that the US never had a chance of "winning". As the courts issue an injunction to the Times barring them from printing future stories on this issue, Bradlee and his team of journalists want to take up the lead on this story in light of the injunction on the Times, he wanting them to use whatever connections they have, including Graham's longtime friendship with former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who is at the center of this story. While assistant editor Ben Bagdikian believes his old colleague Daniel Ellsberg may have been the person who leaked the documents to the Times, Bagdikian has no idea Ellsberg's current whereabouts. The team at the Post is eventually able to piece together the facts of the story for followup to the Times' original piece, however they, under Graham's direction, have to decide how to proceed as there is the potential for the paper to face worse legal problems than the Times if they print - especially with President Richard Nixon's animosity toward them - effectively ruining the paper and the livelihoods of everyone concerned, including Graham herself and Bradlee.
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