The journalism drama “Spotlight” may or may not win the Oscar for best picture this year, but its publicity efforts may do some good for journalism overall.
“Spotlight” focuses on The Boston Globe’s investigative Spotlight Team, played by Oscar nominees Rachel McAdams and Mark Ruffalo, among others. In 2002 they released a story about John J. Geoghan, a Catholic priest accused of molesting more than 130 children, one as young as 4, as the Church bounced him from parish to parish for more than 30 years. As we now know, it wasn’t just one priest, or even just Boston, but a systemic problem in the Catholic Church. Over the coming two years, the Spotlight Team would write 1,000 more stories on the topic, resulting in the resignation of Boston’s Cardinal Law and deep soul-searching throughout the Church.
Director Tom McCarthy has called the film a “love letter to investigative journalism” — the kind of reporting that has become endangered in recent years as newspaper readership shrinks. “The prevailing view among editors is, ‘Investigative reporting is a luxury we can no longer afford,’ ” Walter Robinson, the Spotlight editor played by Michael Keaton, said at a Harvard Kennedy School talk earlier this month. “The fact is, investigative reporting is a necessity that we cannot afford to do without.”
Also this month, two studios involved in “Spotlight,” Open Road Films and Participant Media, along with the news outlet First Look Media, helped sponsor a $100,000 fellowship at The Boston Globe to fund one or more journalists who wish to work on in-depth reporting projects. The Spotlight Fellowship, as it’s called, may be part of a larger Oscar campaign, but it appears to be real; applications will be reviewed by current and former Boston Globe staffers. More information can be found at spotlightfellowship.com