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Wednesday, September 18, 2019
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Globe Spotlight Team Comes to Campus

The Boston Globe Spotlight team at Emerson College

The Boston Globe reporters who cracked the clergy abuse scandal are (from left) Walter Robinson, Ben Bradlee Jr., Michael Rezendes, and Matt Carroll. Here, they speak to a filled-to-capacity Bright Family Screening Room. Photo by Nick Eaton '17

The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative team, which was credited for cracking open the widespread clergy abuse scandal, came to Emerson College this week for a discussion following an advance screening of the new film Spotlight, which tells their story.

The Bright Family Screening Room was filled to capacity with students, faculty, and staff for the November 2 event.

After the screening, Writing, Literature and Publishing Assistant Professor Susanne Althoff, former editor-in-chief of the Boston Globe Magazine, hosted a Q&A with current and former Boston Globe journalists and Spotlight Team members Walter Robinson, Michael Rezendes, Ben Bradlee Jr., and Matt Carroll.

Robinson is played in the movie by Michael Keaton, Rezendes by Mark Ruffalo, Bradlee by John Slattery, and Carroll by Brian D’Arcy James. Advance reviews for the film, which opens on Friday, November 6, have been positive.

The film examines the Spotlight Team’s year-long investigation, concluding in 2002, which uncovered a decades-long coverup at the highest levels of Boston’s religious, legal, and governmental establishment.

Robinson confessed to being “stunned” that Hollywood made a movie about the Spotlight Team’s work. “It never occurred to any of us that anyone would be interested in how we make the sausage.” He also realizes that “there are many victims who are still in the shadows, and because of this [the film] they may come forward.”

Carroll recalls that the investigative team “were all taken aback by the scale” of the abuse.

Bradlee hoped the film would lead to “renewed attention on the problem of abuse.” He also hopes the film “underscores the importance of investigative journalism in a democracy. One good sign at the Globe is not only that the Spotlight Team still exists, but it has expanded from four people to six.” He encouraged young journalists to “be skeptical.”

Rezendes echoed Bradlee’s sentiment: “What we’re hoping happens with this movie is that it essentially continues our work and spurs further change.”

Although the field of journalism is facing tough times, Carroll described the profession as he sees it: “A lot of it is going to be the same—people talking to people and looking at records. A lot of it is going to be coding and scraping the web for databases.” He encouraged the young journalism students in the audience to “keep pushing. Don’t give up.” 

After the clergy abuse era, Robinson said the Spotlight Team “began to look at other victimized populations, rather than just go reflexively after government corruption or something like that.”

Still from

A still from “Spotlight,” which opens Friday