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Journalists and Catholic Church under the spotlight

On Friday, November 6, Thomas McCarthy’s “Spotlight” opened in theaters, drawing viewers into a stylized look at the team of researchers who brought attention to decades of secrets that the Catholic Church wanted hidden.

These secrets had affected hundreds of children and families who, until then, had remained quiet about the sexual abuse that many boys and girls had suffered from at the hands of clergy members. However, this film doesn’t place only the church under the spotlight. It also draws attention to the role of journalism within a com- munity.

Marty Baron, played by Liev Schreiber, the editor of the Boston Globe from 2001 to 2012, redirects his team of Boston Globe journalists to an overlooked story of sexual abuse from a Catholic priest in Boston. After eight months of research, according to the New York Times, the Spotlight team brought Boston to the attention of that and further uncovered sexual abuse throughout the city.

The team, in their 2002 article titled: “Church allowed abused by priest for years,” states that Boston priest John J. Geoghan had sexually abused boys since the mid-1990s. The history of this sexual abuse haunted boys for 34 years until the courts finally be- came involved following the Spotlight team’s stories in the early 2000s.

The research the team conducted ultimately resulted in more than 130 cases surfacing in Boston alone. The story shocked the world; journalists at the Boston Globe were rewarded for their efforts with a Public Service Pulitzer Prize in 2003, according to Pulitzer.org.

The film glamorizes journalism by making the journalists’ efforts appear to always be heroic, but everyday journalism is not always as thrilling. A story is not always breaking in San Diego; and if a national story is breaking, sometimes there is not a local perspective.

It is during these times of not having breaking news that journalists are called upon to be creative. But this creativity can be stressful because deep down, the story that a journalist has worked hard on and that he or she truly cares about might not be as interesting to readers.

According to the American Press Institute, a survey conducted in May of this year displays that 85% of millennials, ages 18-34, “say keeping up with the news is at least somewhat important to them.”

It is dangerous to be a part of a generation that does not prioritize becoming aware of the world in which they live. It is because of news stories that the world learns from its mistakes and keeps moving forward. Journalists need to document stories; individuals need to learn from these stories.

“Spotlight” showcases The Boston Globe’s team of journalists as heroes because they uncovered a story that the Catholic Church hid from the public’s knowledge for three decades. They shed a light onto a community filled with dark secrets, something that journalism is meant to do: connect a local community to the rest of the world by revealing the truth.

Journalism provides an opportunity for the world to join as one community in which people can mourn and cheer as one. If the increase of modern mass media, such as social networking, lowers raw journalism, then I choose not to join the bandwagon. I instead choose to bring integrity wherever journalism takes me; I can only hope for such a humble editor as Marty Baron to lead me to meaningful stories.

Doubts occasionally stir through- out my mind: is the pay of writing for a news organization worth the pay; does anyone even read the news any- more? But this film has reaffirmed my passion for journalism. So, partly dispossessed of my career doubts, I look forward to my future. I am honored to be part of such a field in which I can inform society of not only injustice, but also of times of celebration.




About the author

Jayme O'Hanlon

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