Spotlight rightfully won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2015. This movie captures the story of the Spotlight News Team from the Boston Globe on their hunt for answers surrounding a story about Roman Catholic Priests molesting children.
I will say it right now, from how they were portrayed in the movie, I don’t think these journalists were unethical at all. Mike Rezendes is my favourite character. When everyone else thinks this story is risky, and that suing the church is an insane idea, he thinks it’s fantastic. His attitude from the get go is enthusiastic and motivated. That’s what makes him a great journalist. He wants to get to the bottom of the story and put away the priests who hurt those children.
There are a few moments in the film where Rezendes might have pushed his boundaries. He does not leave Mitchell Garabedian alone, and even sneaks into Garabedian’s office until he finally gets a meeting. This was a crucial step to meeting with victims, so I can see his reasoning behind it. Rezendes’ persistence may have been an annoyance at first, but Garabedian comes around after a while. Garabedian encourages Rezendes to continue his work on these types of cases, because the stories are finally getting the recognition they deserve.
When records on certain priests get released to the public, Rezendes goes to the office where they are being held but he is too late. The place is closed. The scene cuts to him waiting outside the office before it is even open. It doesn’t show that he waited there overnight, but I have a feeling that he did, with a few coffee breaks in-between. It really shows how motivated he is. He knows how important those records are. Once he finally gets the records, the copy room is closed. He pays $87 out of his own pocket so he doesn’t have to come back the next day and make copies for free. He knew he needed that story fast.
The most controversial part about this film is how the victims had to relive their worst memories while explaining their stories to the Spotlight team. A small thought did go through my head. I feel so bad for these victims; I understand why they just want to forget about what happened to them. But I’m glad they spoke up. The way I see it is, if that were me and I had been sexually assaulted and telling my story could prevent it from happening to someone else, I would speak up. I would speak up even if it was torture. If me sharing my story could stop another innocent child from being molested, of course I would.
Sacha Pfeiffer has a conversation with a victim by the name of Eric Macleish. As Macleish is explaining what had happened to him, he says a priest “molested” him. Pfeiffer tells him that the words in this story are very important. He needs to go into more detail. He needs to tell her what happened step by step. Playing down what happened to him but simply using the word “molestation” is a disservice to him and every other sexual assault victim. Pushing him to actually say the words is cringe worthy, but it needed to be done. You can’t leave out the details when it comes to a crime.
These journalists may have been seen as nosey and unethical by some because of the way they encouraged the victims to speak up. The victims were pushed to the point of crying when they explained their stories. I don’t see this as unethical because of the severity of the story. Sexually abusing a child ruins them for life. Phil Saviano explains that what the priests did was not only physical abuse, but it was spiritual abuse. These children had their lives turned upside down. Everything they believed in felt like a lie. Many of them grew up to become alcoholics, drug users, and some committed suicide. It doesn’t just stop when the actual abuse stops. It never stops for them. So yes, tell your story. If you’re struggling right now, tell your story. There are people out there who can and want to help you. That is why this story was so important, and that is why I believe these journalists did the right thing.