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"Spotlight" film showing to invite journalists and students Into dialogue

<p>"Spotlight" stunned audiences last year with its depiction of the Boston Globe Spotlight team that exposed child sex abuse within the Boston Catholic Church.&nbsp;</p>

"Spotlight" stunned audiences last year with its depiction of the Boston Globe Spotlight team that exposed child sex abuse within the Boston Catholic Church. 

The DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy will feature Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll in addition to a special screening of the Academy Award-winning film “Spotlight.”

“Spotlight,” a drama following The Boston Globe’s eponymous investigative reporting team, highlights the group’s exposure of pervasive child sex abuse within the Boston Catholic Church. In 2003, the Spotlight unit won a Pulitzer Prize for their efforts, culminating in the resignation of the Cardinal of the Boston Catholic Church as well as a new wave of scrutiny into Catholic sex abuses nationwide. 

As a member of the original Spotlight team, journalist Matt Carroll will be speaking on campus Sept. 28, three days after a free screening of “Spotlight” Sept. 25.

“[Carroll] was the data person on the team, back in 2000-2001," said Bill Adair, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy. "What Matt brought to the project was the systematic analysis that allowed the Spotlight team to identify the priests suspected of abuse. He was one of the earliest journalists to understand a spreadsheet and how to use it effectively.” 

In his discourse later this Sept., Carroll will discuss the importance of this analytical role on the Spotlight team, as well as address the discrepancies between film and reality and consider the future of investigative reporting, especially at the local level. Carroll notes that the inundation of election reporting and entertainment headlines at the expense of local news coverage. 

“One of the things that’s become clear is that commodity journalism doesn’t really pay,” Carroll said. “Our country desperately needs strong investigative units. We are a democracy, we need an informed citizenry-- when we don’t have an informed citizenry, people don’t know how to vote. People need quality journalism.”

The Boston Globe’s coverage of the Catholic abuse scandal can seem far removed from what’s possible to pursue as a student journalist. However, as Adair asserts, on-campus and local reporting can be just as imperative—if not more so—than nationwide journalism.

“There’s so much focus on journalism at the national level, and that’s great, but we need to cover what’s going on in our own backyards,” Adair said. “‘Spotlight’ demonstrates that local journalism is important, and that it takes courage to do it.” 

Adair points to The Chronicle’s coverage of last year’s Tallman Trask scandal as an example of the importance of on-campus investigative reporting. 

Last February, The Chronicle published a piece featuring an allegation against Duke Executive Vice President Tallman Trask of hitting a parking attendant with his car and allegedly using a racial slur against her. This piece led to a broader dialogue about racialized language, discriminatory firing and hostility towards the Parking and Transportation Services department at Duke.

Though “Spotlight” is significant to a student audience in more ways than one. Shaker Samman, a senior certificating in Policy Journalism and Media Studies, notes that the film has potential to galvanize students, whether they be journalism certificates interested in investigating Spotlight-esque scandals or Public Policy majors hoping to prevent them from happening again.

“Everybody has a work fantasy, but that tends to drift off when real life takes over. [‘Spotlight’] reinvigorated me… it made me think, ‘why not, let’s take chances, let’s go after stories,’” Samman said. “Anytime you see something that relates to what you want to do in life, it makes you want to hit the ground running and try to do something great.”

Both the film screening on Sept. 25 and Matt Carroll on Sept. 28 are free and open to all Duke students, journalism certificate or otherwise. And perhaps, as Adair contends, the “Spotlight” events are just as pertinent to non-journalism students as their counterparts.

“Investigative reporting is as important at Duke as it is in Boston,” Adair said. “It’s important to constantly ask questions.”


Cameron Beach

Cameron Beach is a Trinity sophomore. Her column runs on alternate Mondays.

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