“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.” 

As this line from the movie Spotlight indicates, journalists are those who switch the light on in our society. The hidden filth in the darkness will scream in despair as the light shines on them, burning away like a vampire underneath the sun. However, journalists carry great responsibilities, glorious yet hefty. They will be exalted for exposing the truth and they will be berated by the public for letting out those hurtful and ugly truths. I guess what those outstanding journalists do is letting those noises flow into their heads but quickly filtering them out. Only worthy information stays because there is no time to be wasted on replying to comments of personal insults. Very easily, journalists might sink into self-doubt when the outside world and powerful authorities come together to threaten them by telling them what they should do and shouldn’t do. Thus, journalists would have to make their own judgment about the best way to uphold justice and guide public opinion. 

In the movie Spotlight, the five-member investigative journalism team—Spotlight faces all of the obstacles as mentioned above in their journey to reveal the systematic child sex abuse by Boston’s Roman Catholic Priests. As the team digs deeper into the scandal, they start to realize that the scale of this case is much greater than what they have expected. They are shocked and disgusted by the truth that as many as 87 priests in Boston are child rape suspects. 

It all begins with the team uncovering a scandal of a Catholic priest who has a history of molesting young boys. Some lawyers know about it but did nothing to stop him. The journalists tried their best to persuade and beg the lawyers to reveal names of the victims and priests to gather evidence but the lawyers worked for the churches and have promised them to not disclose any information. The scene that taught me a lesson is when the journalists go from begging to threatening the lawyers. Since the journalists’ weapons are their stories, they threaten the lawyers to write about how they turn child abuse into a money-making industry. Being humiliated by the journalists and feeling guilty, a lawyer finally sends them a list of priests’ names. I think that a good journalist is not only skilled at tender persuasion but also at manipulating people’s weakness as a way to make them tell the truth. 

Another scene that struck me is when Robby, the editor of the Spotlight team confesses that he has neglected a list of priests’ names sent to him years ago when he first started to work for the Boston Globe. His teammates are disappointed that he didn’t do anything back then, which has made the problem worse today. However, the new Globe editor in chief encourages the team by saying that they have done an excellent job and praises them for upholding their responsibilities as the “light switcher” in society. At first, I was also disappointed and angry toward Robby because if he had started investigating with the evidence he had years ago, there might be fewer victims today. However, I realize that I couldn’t blame him for that because he was new to journalism back then and probably had a lot of other reports to write. Besides, nobody knew the scale of this case so nobody cared. What gets to be reported and deserves attention and what doesn’t is an important decision to be made by journalists. Journalists are humans and they are not perfect so it’s impossible to expect that they will notice every influential social problem from its beginning. We should be thankful for their existence and assist them throughout their journey of keeping social justice in check. 

The movie is full of ups and downs. The spotlight team constantly faces new troubles in their investigation but their eagerness to publish their reports has only increased. The movie pays a tribute to investigative journalism. Without these investigative journalists functioning as both the writer and police, we will forever live in darkness. 

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Gwen Ma

Gwen Ma, senior, has a passion for writing fantasy-adventure novels and poetry. In her free time, she enjoys creating artwork and shooting photographs. Gwen wants to major in Communication and Media Studies in college because she is interested in learning how media influence our lives. In summer 2018, she got a chance to be an assistant journalist at a local newspaper in Beijing, China. That special experience gave her more insight into media-related professions. Gwen believes that writing expresses her emotions and bonds her with the people around her. She likes to read ancient Chinese poetry, and one of her favorite books is East of Eden by John Steinbeck.