Spotlight is a fact based story that began in 2001, with editor Marty Baron of The Boston Globe starting to investigate allegations against a priest accused of molesting nearly 80 boys. Boston Globe’s coverage earned the publication, a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003. Written by Josh Singer and Thomas McCarthy, and directed by McCarthy, the movie features a noteworthy cast with Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Live Schreiber, and John Slattery.
The coverage of Boston Globe eventually unearthed a scandal so massive that it shook up centuries old, revered institution, to its core. As a team of reporters begin to interview victims and try to unseal sensitive documents, they find that widespread molestation was going on in Boston and around the world, for decades. The corrupting system with its power and secrecy, not only protected the perpetrators, but also afforded them a perfect environment for to continue their transgressions. Victims were paid off, priests were transferred, court documents were removed illegally from the court, and its litany of lawyers worked to protect the reputation of the church. The movie focuses on journalism accuracy, over sensationalism and lurid details.
Investigation compels the team to reflect on their own conduct as to why such a massive scandal continued and went unreported in the media, for decades. Editor Marty Baron brings the team’s focus back to the task at hand, “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this.”
There is also some internal disagreement. When the reporters find solid proof of nailing one priest of the crime, and wish to go ahead with the story, they are stopped from rushing to print. When they find that as many as 90 priests may be involved, they are still stopped from rushing to print the story. The reporters argue that if they don’t print then somebody else will, and in the process may butcher the story. The response they get is “Baron told us to get the system. We need the full scope. That’s the only thing that will put an end to this”.
The movie not only shines a spotlight on the massive crime occurring behind the walls of an institution that should inspire complete trust, but it also shines a spotlight on what untarnished journalism can be. True journalism can be thorough, considered, and can have a mission.
Baron: We need to focus on the institution, not the individual priests. Practice and policy; show me the church manipulated the system so that these guys wouldn’t have to face charges, show me they put those same priests back into parishes time and time again. Show me this was systemic, that it came from the top, down.
Ben: Sounds like we’re going after Law.
Baron: We’re going after the system.
In the end, a team of dedicated journalists brought down the curtain on corruption surrounding the sexual molestation of children, inside the house of faith. As many as 250 priests were found to be involved in molesting children, over several decades. “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”, and it takes courage and commitment from dedicated journalists to shine a spotlight. This is also superb piece of film-making. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.9.