Journalism takes the Spotlight
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have much interest in watching the Oscars on Sunday night, but my wife and I did rent “Spotlight” off Amazon Prime on Saturday and we couldn’t stop talking about it afterward. So, upon learning via Twitter late on Sunday that the movie won Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards, I felt an odd rush of pride and excitement. Why? Like many other journalists who saw the film, I felt it was a victory for a profession that is widely misunderstood and doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. In a column for The Washington Post, the real-life Martin Baron—the editor of The Boston Globe who had the Spotlight team investigate the covering up of years of sexual abuse by Boston-area priests—wrote, “I feel indebted to everyone who made a film that captures, with uncanny authenticity, how journalism is practiced and, with understated force, why it’s needed.”
As a member of the media, I couldn’t agree more with Baron, despite the fact that almost none of my work is of a true “investigative” nature. But, as Baron alluded to in his column, the film portrayed how hard the work really is and what goes into reporting a story, from observing to fact gathering to interviewing to fact checking to following up with sources to the actual writing of the story, and the list goes on. I think it’s important for the general public to see that process, along with understanding the important role the media plays in informing and protecting the public on any number of issues. Now, not every journalist is a good journalist and not all media operates in the interest of the public good, but there are many credible outlets like the Globe that work tirelessly in pursuit of the truth and we’re all better off due to their efforts.
Applying all of this to the ongoing investigations of doping in track and field, cycling and other sports, it’s journalists that often get blamed (and in some cases, attacked) for sticking their noses where some—mostly those who are being investigated—feel it doesn’t belong. In my experience, this sort of reaction is almost always indicative that someone is hiding something they don’t want the public to know—and usually with good reason. In an era that’s been tainted by some greedy athletes, questionable coaches and agents, and corrupt governing bodies, we should tip our cap to investigative journalists like Hajo Seppelt, David Epstein, Mark Daly and others who are working tirelessly to bring out the truth in track and field. These guys are very good at what they do, credible to a fault and won’t stop until they find out what athletes, fans and anyone else with an interest in the sport deserves to know.