Hollywood’s Spotlight on Journalism
Well, how ironic! Amid the ongoing collapse of newspaper journalism, a movie about newspaper journalists wins the big Oscar for the first time.
The 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture goes to Spotlight, which tells the true story of the Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigative reporting unit that revealed widespread child sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests and the cover-up of the crimes by high-level church officials.
The Globe itself won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service “for its courageous, comprehensive coverage of sexual abuse by priests, an effort that pierced secrecy, stirred local, national and international reaction and produced changes in the Roman Catholic Church.” The Globe’s Pulitzer entry included 22 stories, including the first piece in the series written by Michael Rezendes titled: “Church allowed abuse by priest for years: Aware of Geoghan record, archdiocese still shuttled him from parish to parish.”
Josh Singer, who along with Spotlight co-writer Tom McCarthy won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, recently explained how the film’s underlying message is the importance of journalism to society:
This story isn’t about exposing the Catholic Church. We were not on some mission to rattle people’s faith. In fact, Tom came from a Catholic family. The motive was to tell the story accurately while showing the power of the newsroom—something that’s largely disappeared today. This story is important. Journalism is important, and there is a deeper message in the story.
I don’t think many understand the value of a good newsroom. The L.A. Times used to have 19 reporters covering legislature and now they have 4. When you have fewer reporters covering a story, you have far less accountability.
We wanted to spark or rekindle an interest in accurate and accountable journalism. When there is this kind of accountability among good journalists working together, it has a lasting affect on the public. Remember, Watergate was also a local story that became national.
Newspapers may be shrinking or dying, but investigative journalists are not giving up. In the Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Brant Houston reports on how non-profit news organizations are picking up some of the slack.
Here’s the Spotlight trailer