And the Oscar for best picture goes to…
That moment redeemed the 88th Academy Awards and made it worth staying up so late.
“Spotlight” might not have truly been the best movie of the year, but it was the most important movie. Like most people, I expected “The Revenant” to win for its epic depiction of man versus nature to seek revenge.
Thankfully, the bear that ravaged Leonardo DiCaprio lost to a greater power – Liev Schreiber. He was the best part of “Spotlight.” Without the editor he portrayed, there would have been no spotlight on the priest sexual abuse scandal and cover up.
“Spotlight” put the spotlight on Jewish editor-in-chief Marty Baron, who was brand new when he pushed the Boston Globe to investigate the Catholic Church. Baron had read a newspaper column about a priest accused of sexually abusing a child and wondered why the paper had not investigated.
Baron wasn’t in the good old boy Catholic network so he was willing to question the Church, something Catholics like me were taught to never do. Baron had just left the Miami Herald, so he was an outsider, a Jew from Miami, taking on one of the most powerful institutions in Boston. More than half the readers were Catholic and the investigative team had all been raised Catholic.
Who takes on the Catholic Church? A righteous Jew.
It was a tough spot to be in, but Baron was tougher.
He didn’t want to go after the sinners, he wanted to go after the system that shuffled them around and allowed them to hurt more children.
Liev Schreiber was the perfect actor to depict him. Schreiber is the Jewish Tom Hanks. He played Baron perfectly: Patient. Persistent. Pure intellect.
“I was immensely proud to be playing Marty Baron,” the actor told an Entertainment Weekly.
“There have been a couple roles in my lifetime that I thought, ‘This is really special.’
Marty is way up on that list, right up there with Hamlet and Iago. He’s a real hero. And what’s exciting for me personally is that a lot of people are finding out about him now who never knew who he was.”
I had no idea who Baron was until I saw the movie. I had read almost every Boston Globe story posted online about the pedophile priest scandal, but a good editor disappears into his staff. Baron put the spotlight on the story, not on himself or his staff. The best editors are like stealth bombers. They get in quick, drop their wisdom, then get out and watch the action.
There’s a scene in the movie where Baron edits the story one last time, and removes adjectives. A good editor knows the verbs hold the power. A good editor leaves out the parts people skip.
Unfortunately, we’re now living in an era where journalists are skipping the most important parts. The real team of reporters at the Boston Globe won a Pulitzer Prize in 2003 for public service for their series on the Catholic Church and its cover up of the pedophile priest scandal.
“Spotlight” has been called this generation’s “All the President’s Men.” They’re both great newspaper movies about an industry that, sadly, is starting to resemble neither movie.
When I watched “Spotlight” I felt sad, not just for the children the Catholic Church allowed to be raped and molested, but because the investigative journalism that uncovered that horror is becoming extinct at too many major newspapers.
Too many reporters are rewarded for quick, easy, click bait items that sell ads on the Internet. Long-lead investigative journalism is dead or on life support at too many newspapers, even papers that once excelled at it.
How many newspapers today would gamble on spending the time, talent and money to go after a story that may or may not uncover anything at all? Papers used to routinely take that gamble.
Not any more.
I used to keep a bumper sticker in my newsroom cubicle to remind me: Question Authority. That’s the job of every newspaper. That’s the job of every editor.
It’s a job not everyone likes, especially people in authority. Baron knew that when he took on the Catholic Church. He was thrilled with “Spotlight” and told Variety magazine:
“I think it’s a love letter to investigative journalism and to local journalism. It speaks to the impact we can have if we devote the energy and the resources to difficult work. It’s kind of a reminder of our highest and most important mission.”
Let’s hope it isn’t a farewell letter.