Oscar Winner ‘Spotlight’ Reminds Us What Journalism Is Really About (But That’s Not All)

Posted on February 29, 2016

By Merril Diniz:

If the media reportage of the last few weeks has reinforced anything, it’s that the traditional, so-called “mainstream media” can no longer be relied upon for producing authentic news. Consumers are ill-advised to believe everything reported on TV news channels, newspapers and their corresponding online publications. After all, what was reported on the “JNU Issue” is far from the truth of what was really going on and what instigated events in the first place.

Not only is journalism being sensationalised, it is being completely fabricated for mercenary and political purposes, thus posing a serious threat to the peace and the well-being of society. In the light of these developments, Best Picture Oscar winner ‘Spotlight‘ reminds us of what journalism is really about.

It transports us back to 2002 when the systemic abuse of children by clergy in the Roman Catholic church was brought to light due to the sincerity and dedication of journalists from the Boston Globe’s investigative team ‘Spotlight’, under the leadership of the newspaper’s editor. So shocking were the revelations of this news report, that the Boston Globe’s original article began trending in 2016, post the release of the film. I too, read it with rapt interest and noticed that it was still trending in the top spot on February 29, as I wrote this piece.

If you haven’t already seen ‘Spotlight‘, here’s a trailer that might pique your interest:

The modus operandi of Spotlight journalists was to spend months and sometimes years, researching a story, gathering evidence and personal accounts, before doing an extensive exposé on the subject. Their article, published on January 6, 2002, opened the floodgates, and the newspaper began receiving phone calls from people around the world, wanting to share their own stories of abuse at the hands of the church. By December 2002, the head of the church in Boston resigned and several of the offenders were behind bars.

In the film, the Spotlight team has been portrayed as extremely sincere in their quest for the truth. From what I understand, this sincerity isn’t fabricated. As the reporters dug deeper, the more horrified they became, at the extent of the abuse, and the lengths to which senior clergy members, lawyers and others had gone to cover it up and maintain the status quo.

Sadly, in today’s times, the burden of exposing the truth, cannot lie with journalists alone. We live in a world where corporate-owned behemoths with huge overheads and too many stakeholders to please, are calling the shots in the media “business”. Luckily, bloggers, alternative media platforms, advocacy groups, petition platforms, et al, are all playing a role in exposing the ugly truths that dog society. Yet, their efforts are never enough.

As consumers of media, we must assume just as much responsibility as those who produce it, because we read and share news on our social media timelines, on a daily basis, playing a role in what becomes gospel truth, tomorrow. Shouldn’t we, as consumers, then attempt to authenticate whether what we read is true, before being a conduit in promoting falsified news reports? If we would have done it in the case of the JNU protests, we would have been less gullible to sensationalised, fabricated and mindless reportage.

While there’s no sure-fire way of coming to the right conclusion, it’s advisable not to rely on just one news source. We’ll need to read multiple sources of news before rattling off the first thing that comes to mind on social media. We’ll need to keep an eye on alternative media platforms, which are attempting to look at things in different ways, bringing in a mix of reportage, opinion and data to the mix. We’ll need to watch out for the blogs and social media pages by non-profits and advocacy groups, which expose social evils and atrocities on man and the environment. We’ll need to watch documentary films that delve into subjects in detail.

In today’s day and age, even if we have zeroed in on a couple of news sources that we feel are authentic, it pays to keep reviewing and refining this list as we never know when the mercenary tide can turn.

It might sound tedious – this process of constantly questioning what is true and what is fiction, and then reading up a host of news reports before concluding what we think might be the truth. But it is, unfortunately, inevitable because they don’t make journalists like the Spotlight team, which by the way, went on to win the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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