The 2013 film “Spotlight” is about the sexual abuse allegations against priests in the Boston area. The story was written by the “Spotlight” investigative journalism team for the Boston Globe. Four reporters made up the team, each with different parts to the story.
Michael Rezendes- Spotlight journalist who uses his relationship with lawyer Mitch Garabedian to find out more about the case and the Catholic Church’s recurring coverups.
Sacha Pfeiffer- Spotlight journalist who focuses on talking to victims of abuse and members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Walter “Robby” Robinson- Spotlight’s editor and “active participant.” He uses his connections with the city and the Church to find information for the story.
Matt Carroll- Another Spotlight journalist who helps the team with investigations.
Some people may have speculated on these issues before seeing “Spotlight.” The team brought the issue to national and worldwide attention. Not only the regular occurrence of the abuse, but also the coverups. Many priests were shuffled around different parishes after being suspects. The Spotlight team was able to identify 90 different priests in the Boston area suspected of abuse. It seemed to be OK for them to get away with it because of the power the Church had in the area. When Spotlight decided to look, they found information and answers.
The film shows the extent that the Catholic Church went to in order to cover up the abuse. Victims got small settlements and that was usually the end of it. The Spotlight team did what mandated reporters could not: prove the top cardinal knew about it and did nothing about it. When you tell that to people, they know there is a problem in the law system. When there is a problem in the system along with that many victims, people will listen. A great scene is when Robby has to verify a source. The source is a lawyer who defended some of the abusers. Robby learned his lesson for not stepping up to get the story. The journalists of the Globe had information about this before, but didn’t prioritize it. In some ways the film is about the saying better late than never.
All four of the Spotlight journalists put personal time, friendships and their reputations at risk. The new Boston Globe editor, Marty Baron, effectively sues the Catholic Church. From then on, it is Spotlight digging deeper into the cases. Robby seems to lose many friendships. Sacha loses a lot of time with her family. Mike has to work harder than ever. At one point he flies back from Florida just in time to get protected documents before anyone else can. All four of the journalists seem to lose whatever faith they had. In some ways they feel overwhelmed by just how bad the situation is. They feel guilty for not acting on the information sooner.
They all gained experience and pushed through adversity. It isn’t easy to take on an institution that many people believe in and will get mad at you if you go after it. The Spotlight team members prove that no matter what, the truth will come out. When the phones are ringing nonstop at the end of the movie, it shows they did their job for society. People are no longer afraid to speak up, because they spoke for so many people with their story.
“Spotlight” is a movie about questioning faith, having grief for something beyond your control, but most importantly it shows that it is worth the work to advocate for others. Sometimes people need someone to speak for them if authorities can’t—or won’t– do their job.