Last month’s release of “Spotlight” directed by Thomas McCarthy has been receiving critical acclaim and is an early front runner for best picture at the Oscar’s.
The film portrays the Boston Globe investigative staff during its coverage of child sex abuse scandals by priests in Massachusetts. In 2002, criminal charges were brought against five Roman Catholic priests in the Boston area. The investigations became a national headline in the early 2000s under the name “Spotlight Investigation – Abuse in the Catholic Church” after the Globe investigated an ongoing cover up.
Former University of Rhode Island journalism student and Good 5 Cent Cigar News Editor Tom Farragher currently works for the Boston Globe as an associate editor and columnist. He was a part of the “Spotlight” staff for over nine years, which included a stint as the team’s editor-in-chief from 2006 until he switched positions last year.
Although he did not join the investigative team until after the timeline of the film, he worked on the case and many others during his time there.
“There’s something otherworldly about seeing people that you’ve worked alongside with for a long time portrayed on the screen,” Farragher said. “It’s bizarre on one level and on another level I think they have, to a large degree, nailed these characters. There’s no embellishments and, mostly, the story that you see in that movie is in fact what happened.”
The movie version of “Spotlight” ends on Jan. 6, 2002, immediately after the publication of the crew’s first edition in the Boston Globe. Farragher, along with a few other journalists, joined the specific investigation after the fact. In the time he worked on the case, though, “Spotlight” as a collective had written a book and over 600 stories according to Farragher.
Farragher does not have an appearance in the film, but said that he is happy with how his colleagues were portrayed throughout the production process. He said that avoiding the typical Hollywood approach of journalists helped make the film more authentic, specifically by addressing and accepting that many parts of the job are tedious in nature.
“It very well gets the fact that a lot of investigative journalism is similar to reporting; knocking on doors and looking through documents,” he said. “That’s not very glamorous, but that’s how the job is done. I think “Spotlight” gets it right.”
“Spotlight”, which turns 45 years old this year, is the oldest continuously published investigative unit in the country. With the state of journalism changing so continuously, Farragher said he is happy to see the Globe and journalism as a whole getting so much attention.
“These things don’t come together overnight,” he said. “This is not a daily story, a weekly story or even a monthly story. It’s a story that takes a long time to dig out of the cracks and to make sure you’ve done it right. It’s high-stakes journalism and what’s good for the Globe is good with me.”
Now that the season for many of the major film award shows is finally beginning, “Spotlight” is swiftly gaining traction with critics and moviegoers. Michael Keaton has already won the New York Film Critics Circle award for best actor with his portrayal of Walter “Robby” Robinson among the over 20 nominations and wins the film has already received from prominent film award organizations.
“We followed the story to its natural lengths, which was tracking down victims, telling the stories of the abusive priests, finding documents, reading depositions, that’s what we did for a long time,” Farragher said. “It was very powerful work, very satisfying work and I am proud with the degree I am associated with it.”