The main title above demonstrates both the potential for success and the real possibility of controversy for Steven Spielberg’s next movie, “The Post,” starring Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Katherine Graham and Tom Hanks as chief editor Ben Bradlee. The outrage over the moral equivalence with which “Munich” treated terrorists and the people who hunted them blindsided the famed director. He thought he was directing a meditation on the cycle of violence that the war on terror engenders. Many saw it as historical sophistry and as an apologia for terrorism.

A similar fate may await “The Post,” a paean to the power of a free press, set during the 1971 Pentagon Papers controversy.

Why the critics love the movie

Early buzz from screenings for critics is mostly positive. Spielberg is the most celebrated film director of our age, and Streep and Hanks are first-rate actors. One cannot escape the notion that some of the excellent buzz stems from the fact that the movie depicts journalists as heroes, holding people in power to account, a view that people who write for newspapers and TV are likely to receive warmly. The belief was widely shared in the 1970s, reaching a zenith during Watergate. However, the belief that the press is the watchdog of public life has faced a steady decline since.

Many people hate the media

A recent survey suggests a huge partisan divide over the media’s watchdog role. 89 percent of Democrats agree that the media has played an important role in keeping the powerful accountable. Just 42 percent of Republicans hold with this view, a yawning gap of 47 percent.

The reason for this divide is not hard to understand.

The media has been somewhat picky about whom they hold accountable, at least in the perception of Republicans. Republican presidents such as Reagan, both Bushes, and now Trump get fairly hostile, sometimes nasty coverage. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama get the softball treatment. Behavior, such as the sexual abuse of women or using the IRS as a political weapon, would become front-page, top-of-the-hour news if committed by a Republican president.

Clinton in the first case and Obama in the second get a pass.

What does this mean for the movie?

The reason why Trump can tweet “Fake news!” and be widely believed is that his media critics have lost all credibility because of decades of politically biased reporting. The role of media as the watchdog has ended because the press was always selective in whom they held to account. Democrats are okay with this phenomenon. Republicans are fed up.

The Post” will likely do well in blue states, especially the New York and Los Angeles media markets, but somewhat less so in the heartland. The film will probably get a lot of criticism, which may surprise its brilliant director but really should not.