Spotlight: How the power of four journalists can make a difference.
The Team: At its heart, Spotlight is a film about how four journalists can work together in order to effect large-scale change that touches the lives of thousands of individuals. A journalists has the responsibility to be a watchdog in their community in order to effectively serve their readers.
Confidentiality: The four reporters at The Boston Globe worked for nearly two years on the investigation of the abuse of 87 priests in Boston. In their investigations, confidentiality was key to protecting the privacy of the victims of this horrible abuse. In order to effectively and accurately investigate and report the story, the reporters used several resources such as lawyers, official court documents, archives and most importantly interviews with victims.
The Lawyers: One of the central plot lines of the film revolves around the lawyers who were involved in lawsuits addressing the abuse that some victims had faced. These lawyers, sometimes breaking confidentiality and speaking “off the record,” had to advocate for their victims in order to bring justice to the abused.
Mitch Garabedian: Mitch, a Boston lawyer, was an integral source for the spotlight team when they discovered the magnitude of the abuse young boys had faced throughout Boston. Through the use of off record discussions and court documents regarding the cases, Mitch provided the team with reliable documents and credible one-on-one interviews with victims. While some of the victims wanted to remain anonymous, some wanted to have their names published in order to help strengthen the story.
The Documents: The use of sealed court documents, obtained legally through a public appeal via the recommendation of Mitch Garabedian, helped corroborate the victim’s various stories. The team at first faced legal issues in finding documents as they had been sealed or relocated by the Church, however, they were able to use them once they were made public. The question of publishing the documents was particularly important for the reporters; they stated that while they wanted to maintain the privacy of the victims, it was equally as important to provide proof to the Boston community to shed light on the Church’s abuse of power.
The Archives: Another way that the journalists helped uncover the manipulation and abuse of power in the Church was through patterns in the archives. The journalists used yearly archives that listed the location of all priests throughout Boston; any priest with the mark of “sick leave” was relocated by the Church after abuse or allegations of abuse. This detail was particularly significant as it allowed the team to identify the Church’s tactics.
Language: One of the ways that the journalists helped strengthen and use their story to shock their community was through the use of vivid language. The team encouraged victims to be descriptive in order to show their community the horror of the abuse they suffered.
The Audience: This story was particularly important for the newspaper as it was set in Boston and 53% of their subscribers were Catholic. The reporters had to make sure not to be biased towards or against the Church in their reporting. They used facts, documents, and concrete stories to fuel their stories rather than allowing opinion to influence their writing.
The Cover Up: The Church covered up abuse for years, but four journalists were able to uncover the abuse due to the honesty and reliability of their sources. The Spotlight Team was objective, yet raw, factual, and accurate; their dedication to fair and honest journalism is a demonstration of why the news is essential to a democratic society. If it weren’t for the long-term dedication of the team, it is possible that the Church may have been able to hide the abuse for decades, possibly forever.