How Investigating Abuse Might Win an Oscar and Fix the Economy

Survivors in the Spotlight

Tomorrow morning, 11 AM eastern time, I’ll be featured in a segment of CNN Money, during Sunday’s CNN Reliable Sources.

As an activist for ending the epidemic of abuse in the Catholic Church, I’m often interviewed for news stories. But this is new for me, being interviewed for a piece about the financial world. In all my years of activism on behalf of survivors, I’ve never considered that I might be involved in something that can impact a part of our economy. But you can never know all the places your work might have an effect.

The journalism sector has taken a huge hit in recent years, with print journalism almost disappearing as news reportage and consumption have moved online. Punditry, opinion, and spectacle have overtaken research and objectivity as the primary foci of many news reporting organizations.

Spotlight: Investigative Journalists as Heroes

But objective newspaper, radio, and television journalism do still exist. And thanks to the movie Spotlight, and a talented cast that includes Rachael McAdams, Liev Schriber, Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo, investigative journalists in particular are inspiring a new generation of students. With any luck, the film will also remind us that this vital work is worth paying for.

Many, many activists and whistle blowers are always working to get word out about injustice and malfeasance in various areas of American life. Every now and then, one of those gets the attention of someone who can help do something about a problem. Spotlight is about one such event, when a group of investigative journalists took a source and a story seriously enough to dig below the surface, shine a light into very dark places, and find out exactly what was going on.

A Chance at the Academy Awards

The segment airs tomorrow, February 28th, the same day as the Academy Awards ceremony. That’s important, because Spotlight is nominated for six of those awards, including Best Picture.

Spotlight is that rare film that deals with both the worst of people and the best of people and lets us know that we hold the keys to the solution for so many of our problems. While box office blockbusters, and blustering candidates can seem important as they take up all the oxygen in the room, they are only spectacle and show, with no substance.

Spotlight was not created to be that kind of blockbuster. But it is a blockbuster of another type, it provides heart-stopping drama and edge-of-seat suspense about whether real victims, of real crimes, will be vindicated, and real criminals held to account. The Atlantic called Spotlight  “an emotional juggernaut”, and that’s certainly the way it affected me.

The cinematic drama continues Sunday night, when the truth of Spotlight goes up against a stellar array of fictional films, including The Martian and The Revenant, for best picture of 2015.

The Real Drama

And meanwhile, the real drama of priests and sexual abuse continues in our churches, our courtrooms, our Archdiocese, throughout the Catholic Church hierarchy, and all the way up to the Pope. Will abusive priests, and the bishops who cover for them ever, finally, be held to account for their ongoing crimes against innocent children?

Tune in to CNN Reliable Sources tomorrow morning, Sunday Feb 28th, 11 AM Eastern Time. 8 AM Pacific Time.

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