I was only 8 when the events of the movie “Spotlight,” set for general release this Friday, took place, which explains why I have no memory of a world in which the Catholic church’s sexual abuse scandal was not common knowledge. Lots of people do, and they can appreciate their actions even more.
For those of you who don’t know, “Spotlight” is based on the true story of the team of Boston Globe reporters who broke the news that some Catholic priests were sexually abusing children, while others were hiding that truth. I, and the rest of NYU’s journalism students, was invited to a special free screening of the movie this evening. And this isn’t a review of the movie; I don’t know enough to accurately do that. This is a story about how that movie exemplifies everything that I want out of journalism.
I laughed, cried, clenched my fists and occasionally went into spasms of excitement during the movie because there, on the big screen, my people were being depicted as heroes. For once, entertainment showed reporters as good guys, and that was exhilarating. (I will never understand the man in the row in front of me who snored his way through that thrilling depiction of journalistic prowess. I don’t know who you are, sleeping dude, but know that you do not have my respect.)
I got into journalism because I realized that there are people in the world, people in power, who want to do bad things and hide them.
There are people hurting other people and getting away with it, and that is. Not. Ok. With me.
The reporting done by the Boston Globe team, Spotlight, (a special group of investigative reporters the size of the entire staff at my summer internship paper) is the kind I dream of doing. The kind I do in the far reaches of my mind, where I am far braver and more assertive than I am in real life.
Specifically, Mark Ruffalo (dearest Bruce Banner, of course), whose character, Mike of the last name I can’t spell, who isn’t afraid to make a nuisance of himself in order to get someone to talk to him.
You see, I long to someday storm into someone’s office, tell them what’s going on, and not be afraid that they won’t like me. But I’m such a people pleaser. I haven’t managed to overcome the mental block that having people like me is the highest goal.
It isn’t. Telling the truth and being true to the calling God has placed on my life are far higher goals. It doesn’t matter if I’m telling the story of a minor gas leak or a titanic scandal like this one – I must endeavor to research, report, dig deep and uncover the truth. I owe it to people to do that.
I’ve always loved that journalists can be “voices for the voiceless,” because we have the skills and the ability to tell someone’s story when they can’t tell it themselves. I think it’s one of the most important things we can do.
But it takes courage to do that, a fearlessness that I haven’t yet developed. Before moving to New York, I didn’t realize how much of a scaredy cat I am. I thought that because I’d fought my school administration, talked to Madisonville’s mayor and mastered the art of “man on the street” at Asbury, I’d become brave.
I was wrong. I’m filled with terror every time I have to do a story. But I’m doing the stories. I’m gathering my courage, and I’m not giving up, because someday I want to do for the world what Spotlight did: I want to change it.
I said when I came to this city that I did it because I had no other choice; that’s true as well of why I’m pursuing journalism. Watching this movie, I felt compelled to go out there and chase the stories, uncover the secrets, tell the truth. It terrified me to think of doing what those characters were doing. But it terrified me even more to think of not doing it.
Of course it would be nice someday to win a Pulitzer, like the Boston Globe journalists did, to have Rachel McAdams play me in a movie and the world acknowledge what I did. It would be even nicer, though, to know I did right, that I helped others and was right.