At the turn of this century, the long truce between Boston’s First and Fourth Estate came to a sudden, shocking end. Back then journalists were, or at least aspired to be, gritty locals who strove for accuracy. A story could be printed not only too late, but too early. If today’s holders of advanced degrees from Medill and Columbia wore caps, it would be appropriate to tip them to those who remain of the dying breed, and to pause for a moment from click bait content creation.
Outside of the Boston Globe offices, the “Spotlight” investigative team assertively asks pointed questions. Interviews amongst themselves usually go like this:
Q. How big is this?
Q. How far up does this go?
Q. Who knew?
No heroic efforts in Vatican catacombs were necessary to find the paper trail of priests molesting young people. The key documents could all be found at the public library, the county courthouse, and the Globe’s own archives. The staff’s old-timers sense that their institution and by extension they themselves have been complicit.
Hollywood focus group testers must’ve determined fifteen years out was ideal timing for this movie. Any earlier and it would’ve been too controversial. Any later and nobody would care anymore.
The producers delayed so long that the movie became a period piece. The props master and set designer had to assemble a newsroom full of clunky PC’s with cathode ray monitors. The location manager faced the formidable task of depicting a Boston without Prius-drivers, selfie-takers, and skinny jeans.
Leisurely integration of back stories and slick but vapid cinematography, editing, and music suggest there’s great potential here for a TV series that follows the Spotlight team through a new investigation each season.