What can we learn from Spotlight?

Spotlight, learn, teach, message, journalist, journalism, film, movie, kettle mag, rochelle beighton

Tom McCarthy’s Spotlight shone at the 2016 Oscar nominations and is the bookies favourite to beat The Revenant for Best Picture. The star-studded film is based on a series of true stories from America’s oldest newspaper investigation unit, the Spotlight team at The Boston Globe. This local newspaper rose to fame making international headlines when a team of its reporters uncovered various sex abuse scandals within the clergy.

But what can journalists of today learn from Spotlight?

On multiple occasions throughout this biographical drama, we see journalists holding on to their story and not moving forward with publishing because, when faced against the power of the church, they have to get it right. This is a huge contrast to today’s norm where often stories are uncovered and thrust online as soon as possible. The competition to be the first to break a story means news is often rushed and evidence not always accurate, but the Spotlight team did get it right. Holding back for as long as they did in order to make their evidence immaculately correct meant that when they broke the story, their argument was so powerful that there was no possible counter blow against them.   

With a decline in modern day investigative journalism, the Spotlight team’s tactics bring into question the methods of today’s journalist, who holds breaking a story first at a higher value than reliability. It questions; what kind of impact does this style draw? The Spotlight team’s deeper method of reporting appears to be the successful way of holding powerful people accountable for their actions. Even though there’s no immediacy to their work, they ultimately teach us that investing in a deeper style of investigative journalism could yield a story that has more power behind it.

With readers focusing on the “top dog” newspapers such as The Guardian and The Times, Spotlight reinforces the importance of investing in local newspapers. It’s important to note that the Boston Globe is a local newspaper that uncovered a piece of local news, which later became of worldwide interest. This implies that we should buy our national and local newspapers when searching for news, and that our local papers often contain more relevant news about what’s going on around you.

Spotlight is up for six Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Film Editing, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo) and Best Supporting Actress (Rachel McAdams). Find out the results on February 28th

Do you think Spotlight holds a valuable lesson for journalists? Let us know in the comments below!