‘Spotlight’ win highlights importance of investigative journalism

Feb 29, 2016 | Arts, News

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

Ashley Jagpal

Chris Rocks’ brilliant opening monologue and Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an Oscar were certainly highlights of the 88th Academy Awards.

But according to one Toronto journalist, the best thing about the Oscars was the Best Picture award for Spotlight.

The films true story was based on the abuse of power in the Catholic Church and the reporting skills of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight” team that investigated the sexual abuse for more than 80 boys in the Catholic Church. The reporters made it their mission to prove that the Catholic Church tried to cover up all sexual abuse scandals that revolved around priests.

Peter Howell, a Toronto Star movie critic told Humber News the film portrayed journalists perfectly.

“I think it’s really well done. As a journalist, it almost brought me to tears because it reminded me of how things used to be,” said Howell.

Spotlight starred Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Ontario’s very own Rachel McAdams. Howell said the only other movie he saw that portrayed journalists in the right way was another movie Keaton starred in 1994 called The Paper.

“Most films that I see that have journalists in them are usually totally wrong, this was perfect – right on the money,” said Howell.

Howell said the film winning highlights the importance of journalism, especially as newspapers today are closing or cutting jobs.

“If you keep taking away people who are doing that, you’re going to be left with people chattering inaccurate facts at each other or non-facts. The internet would be a much less exciting and less formative place, if you got the journalist side out of there.”

Sean Holman, vice-president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, told Humber News that Spotlight should remind journalists of why they do what they do.

“It provides a degree of inspiration for journalists, who I think right now need to be reminded about why the job they do is important,” said Holman.

Holman also said this films shows the difference between American and Canadian journalism. There are limitations for  journalists currently practicing in this country.

“There’s a lack of information in Canadian society that will not allow us to do this kind of work. We don’t have access to the same kinds of public records the reporters at the Boston Globe had and we don’t have a culture in Canada that supports the whistle-blowing, speaking out and speaking out of turn that supports good journalism in U.S.,” said Holman.

Holman offered three ways for Canada to promote better journalism. It begins with giving  journalists  the support of the Canadian public.

“First, how do we make public records more accessible in this country? Second, how do we ensure our audience is more educated in civil society and political systems in this country? And third, [we need to] have some real change that will allow the citizen rate to have more of a say to take action on the things that they hear, see and read about in the news.”

When asked about the pros and cons of Spotlight, Holman said the great thing about the film is that it shows what life of a journalist is like.

“It gives you a sense about how much work goes into journalism and how much frustration there is involved in the craft.  Most people don’t get to see that, so it’s nice to see that on the big screen,” said Holman.

But he also said it shows a misleading view on investigative journalism.

“This movie reinforces a miss about journalism, that investigative journalism takes a long time, it doesn’t have to take a long time. There’s investigative journalism that can be done in a day, so I think this kind of investigate journalism can take as long as it actually did [with the Boston Globe] but it could also take a much smaller period of time.”

Michael Glassbourg, the program coordinator for Humber’s film and television program, praised Spotlight for being engaging and dramatic.

“If Spotlight educates the public in some way, in the journalist process and how real nasty people can cover things up, that’s great,” he said.

“Can a movie like Spotlight have a impact on policy and how people perceive journalism on a world wide level?” said Holman. “Absolutely, but I think it might be too early to say what that impact might be.”

Producer Michael Sugar gave a powerful speech during his acceptance by saying he hope the silence over child abuse would “resonate all the way to the Vatican.”

He ended with a direct message to the Pope, “Pope Francis: it’s time to protect the children and restore the faith.”

The film also won for Best Original screen play and was nominated for four other awards for best editing, best directing, and best supporting actor and actress (Ruffalo and McAdams).

To read the original Boston Globe article written by the real Mike Rezendes and his “Spotlight” team visit, The real “Spotlight” article