Tag Archives: Journalism

“SPOTLIGHT” Review (✫✫✫✫)

“Shine a light, and let the whole world see.”

In the Boston Globe story on the 1990 Church abuse scandal, the Spotlight team reported that there were over 130 sexual assault victims from just one Catholic priest. In the film Spotlight, we eventually learn that over 80 Boston priests were sexual predators, and were being continuously circulated from parish to parish. If those numbers are consistent, how many victims of sexual assault does that spell out for Boston? My math came down to over 10,000.

I don’t know if that’s accurate because I haven’t dug much further into the Boston Globe’s reporting, but I don’t think that matters. What matters is that Spotlight made me think of those victims. It made me think about the people that you don’t normally think about, the problems that you don’t think exist, and the secrets that you don’t think are being hidden behind prayers and confession booths. Like any great piece of reporting, Spotlight brings importance, urgency, and truth that needs to be known about. If Spotlight isn’t the best film of the year, it is definitely the most important.

The Spotlight team consists of lead editor Walter Robinson (Michael Keaton) and reporters Matt Carol (Brian d’Arcy James), Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams), and Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo). The team is specifically reserved for investigative reporting, previously breaking stories on transit mismanagement and political corruption in Massachusetts. At the time when they were given this assignment, it was not as a follow-up to a news story, but to a column written and published by one of the Globe’s staffers.

At first, no one really thought much of the project. When originally pitched, it had to do with the Catholic church finding out that one priest had sexually assaulted children in six different churches, and did nothing about it. But when the team kept digging, they found out that it was bigger than they anticipated. Much bigger.

While watching Spotlight, I was thrusted upon an early memory of one of my first major news assignments. It was a story called “Seconds Away,” and it was about a university alumna who was just seconds from crossing the finish line before it blew up during the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. The story wasn’t that she survived. It was that she went back the following year to finish crossing the line that she never did.

While getting ready for our interview, I was excited, nervous, and petrified all at once. This was a woman who had survived a near-death experience. She had faced something few other people have had to face, myself included. I didn’t know how to approach it. Was she comfortable with me talking to her? Would I be insensitive by asking serious questions? Would I be disrespectful by asking what was going through her mind? What would that say of me as a person, by asking her to relive something traumatic that she already went through?

The reporters and editors behind Spotlight face these same questions and concerns of morality every day they step into the office. Yet, they handled this difficult subject in the same way that the movie does: with grace and respect.

The greatest thing that can be said about Spotlight is its transparency: in how its characters charge towards this groundbreaking story and the emotions and conflicts they experience while doing their jobs. Writer-director Tom McCarthy, who was raised Catholic, juggles this behind-the-scenes story with real people’s traumas and emotions in mind. The result is a portrait that is genuine, astounding, mind-blowing, and heartbreaking all at once.

Take the interview scenes as a demonstration of this. During the film’s first scenes, Spotlight reporters sit down with a few sex abuse survivors, their brokenness and vulnerability made evident on the spot. The interesting thing you’ll find in between these intercut scenes is that it’s not Rachel McAdam’s mannerisms we’re noticing. It’s not Mark Ruffalo’s reactions or face of shock we’re noticing. It’s the supporting actors playing these victims, whom I can’t even identify off of the film’s cast list. Every detail of them is absorbing and introspective.

We notice the gay man in a coffee shop as he twiddles his thumbs nervously on his coffee cup. We notice the skinny drug addict sweating, entering the room cautiously, seeing scars up his arms from when he injected himself with heroin. We notice that while their testimonies are overwhelmingly tragic, they talk about it casually and on a whim; like it’s a scar that has already been healed, but will never go away. We listen to their silence as they quietly relive their traumas, the quivering in their voice as they slowly speak, the tears building up in their eyes as they come to once again realize what they are. I find that so compelling, that one of the best things in this film are the actors that I can’t even name.

The rest of the film is like that: finding value in the areas that you can’t exactly point out, but you know they are there. For instance, who’s the main protagonist? You could argue Rezendes, because he has the most visible reaction from working on this story. In reality though, this story is impacting the entire Spotlight team and more. It impacts everyone, in ways that nobody realizes until it walks right up to their doorstep.

This movie takes time and dedication to build up its story and collect the necessary information, just like Spotlight’s reporters do. In doing that, this is undeniably a slow film, but the pace doesn’t matter as much as the payoff. Spotlight deserves to be sought out. It is one of those rare films that not only makes us better viewers, but also better human beings.

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For WDBJ. For Journalism.

Journalism is under attack. The reporters are the soldiers, and our battlefield is the space that we type in.

Well, typing for most, that is. Some are brave enough to put their faces and bodies on a different battlefield: a television screen.

Two reporters did just that Wednesday morning. By that evening, we had two more casualties to report.

WDBJ reporter Alison Parker was 24 years old. She loved Mexican food, kayaking and television. One of her favorite characters was Walter White of “Breaking Bad.” She fell in love with WDBJ7 anchor Chris Hurst, and the couple moved in together in early August. They were saving up money for a wedding. Hurst told his mother “I finally found my teammate.”

Parker was the first to get shot.

Her camera man Adam Ward caught it all on camera. In that moment, everyone watching the television was seeing the same thing Ward was: his colleague and friend getting shot three times as she tried to get away.

Coworkers have described both journalists as good human beings — people with emotions, concerns, quirks and characteristics that made them who they are. They were good reporters, and they were better people.

The violent taking of their lives is, in every sense of the word, senseless. Nobody deserves the fate that these two suffered.

What bothers me most about this case is that, despite how tragic the situation is, it isn’t the only time it has happened.

In the past 10 years, at least 40 journalists a year have died while reporting on a story, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. The largest number of casualties was 74 in 2012.

Some were caught in the crossfire while on the other side of the world in Iraq or Syria. Others were publicly executed as a warning to others who would speak out against evil and violence. You might find it interesting that the area of coverage to suffer the greatest amount of casualties is not crime, but politics.

Whatever the case may be, journalists like Parker and Ward are all over the world doing their jobs. They have families, friends and lives outside of the newsroom just like Parker and Ward did.

There’s only one reason why Parker and Ward’s deaths are getting all the media attention and not others: it was broadcast on national television.

We can’t just care about the reporters deaths that we know about. We need to be aware of all the sacrifices that journalists make on a daily basis and why they voluntarily make those sacrifices. Too many journalists have lost too much for the sake of their jobs.

#WeStandWithWDBJ

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Dear Twitter: I’m Sorry

Dear Twitter.com,

Hi. I know it’s been a long time. How have you been? Good, I hope. I know things haven’t been the same since, well, you know. I know we’ve been through a lot together, I know that you hold some things against me and I’ve equally held some things against you, but for at least the next few moments, I want to put that behind us just so I can talk to you.

I remember the first time that we met each other. It was August 2012, when my entertainment editor at the time told me that I needed to get a twitter account. The idea infuriated me. “Twitter?!” I thought. “Who wants to deal with that bull4#5+?!”

But I remained open to the idea. I knew for my new job as the film critic that I had to build a social media presence that would help me in my audience syndication, similar to how Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper developed their presence and identities on the blogosphere. But the idea intimidated me. I was never a sociable guy in high school and I wasn’t much better in college. How could I possibly succeed at being social on a site I knew nothing about?

Then I met you. Boy, was my world turned upside down. I was instantly attracted to how neat and clean your format looked, how bright and colorful your pages were and how each tweet was as legible as a line of text messages. But it wasn’t just how you looked: your assets were tantalizing, your tutorial simplistic and ideal and your interface user-friendly. I knew from the moment I met you that we had something special, something that no other blogger could ever match. You and I were more than a team; we were star-crossed lovers, taking down the blogosphere one tweet at a time.

At least, that’s what we both thought. It was good the first few months, with you filling up my feed with content and with me tweeting out stories and pictures as if I knew what I was doing. Soon though, we both started doing things that set both of us on edge, and I don’t think we’ve been the same ever since.

For instance, you would always punish me for writing a tweet longer than 140 characters, and always asserting me with the answer “No” when I told you to publish it. I would yell at you for telling me no and shout at you about why the hell it was 140 characters instead of 140 words. You said that the tweet would be long and unappealing. I told you that your rants were long and unappealing.

We said hurtful things to each other, and our passion and love for each other was all but gone. In short, the reality of the romance quickly set in, and while we kept trying with each other, things just weren’t working out between us.

You remember how things went from there. After talking for a long while, we decided to go our separate ways and see other tweeters.

I’m not going to lie to you, the experience really hurt me. Do you know what bothered me the most though? It wasn’t the fact that you were mean to me. It wasn’t the fact that you were strict or stiff about the boundaries of our relationship. It wasn’t even the fact that you criticized me for any tweet that was over 15 words. It was the fact that you never let me know how you truly feel.

Please don’t lie, it’s the truth. You never talked to me about why the tweets couldn’t be over 140 characters. You never talked to me about what was wrong with you when I had five bars of WiFi, or why it took so long to upload a small file photo. You never even talked to me about your needs, about what you wanted in our relationship and why I wasn’t satisfying you in the ways I was supposed to.

I was not hurt that you were seeing other tweeters. I was hurt because you never talked to me about why. Why did you never talk to me?

It doesn’t matter. I miss you, and I want to give this a second shot. I know, I know, you’re scared and you don’t want this to fail a second time. Let me assure you: I know my mistakes. We didn’t agree on the character limit or the picture space. So what? I don’t care about that. I want to make this work, and I’m willing to work on my mistakes if it means being with you again. This isn’t a joke, and this isn’t me pranking you. I feel like I can make this work. I need you.

If you want to give this a second shot, you can reach me at my twitter handle @dDUnn87. Funny, huh? Exchanging twitter handles just like when we first met.

I won’t pressure you with anything more. I just wanted you to know that I miss you and I want to give this a second shot. Please reach me if you want to as well. I hope you do.

Truly yours,

David Anthony Dunn

P.S.: I saw you online today. You looked lovely.

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