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Spotlight chronicles The Boston Globe’s investigative team and the newspaper’s efforts in 2002 to report on the Catholic Church’s protection of pedophile priests.

The Arts

Journalism film series to conclude with ‘Spotlight’

BRATTLEBORO—The final installment of this season’s Journalism Film Series is Spotlight, the 2015 film about the story of the clash between two powerful New England institutions: the Catholic Church and The Boston Globe.

Spotlight won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016. It will be shown for free at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Latchis Theatre. A discussion led by Randy Holhut of The Commons will follow. Donations are welcome.

The Globe wasn’t the first to uncover the story of rampant sexual abuse of children by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston. But as the largest and most influential newspaper in New England, it was the only news organization that could take on and break the wall of silence put up by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

All the President’s Men used to be the gold standard for newspaper movies. Then came Spotlight,” Holhut said in a news release. “Taking on Richard Nixon was one thing; taking on the Pope and the Catholic Church was another. Spotlight shows the difficult work of nailing down a difficult story, a story that is still shaking the foundations of the Catholic Church, as more people come forward to talk about what happened to them as youths.”

While the Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 2003 for its coverage of the sex abuse scandal — one of three Pulitzers that the Spotlight team has won for investigative reporting since it was formed in the early 1970s — Holhut said winning awards and selling newspapers was not the motivation.

“Given the power and influence that the Church still has in Boston, the Globe could have easily taken a pass on reporting this scandal,” Holhut said. “But this was a story that needed to be done because of a grievous wrong that needed to be righted. When the most powerful figure in a Catholic family’s life, the parish priest, turns out to be a sexual predator, that violates a trust that can never fully be restored.

“The Spotlight Team’s job is to take on powerful institutions and dig deep into stories that are complicated and often hidden. Of the more than 100 stories they’ve reported over the past four decades, this was the one that was the most controversial, the most difficult, and the most heartbreaking.”

After the film, Holhut will be joined by Leah Goodman, an award-winning investigative journalist and author, who will discuss the difficulties when journalists expose cultures of corruption inside powerful institutions. Goodman is a senior staff writer for Newsweek and an author at HarperCollins, who published her first book, The Asylum: Inside the Rise and Ruin of the Global Oil Market, in 2011.

The Journalism Film Festival has been presented by a coalition consisting of the Friends of Brooks Memorial Library, Brooks Memorial Library, The Commons, the Brattleboro Reformer, the Vermont Humanities Council, and the Latchis Theatre.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #447 (Wednesday, February 21, 2018). This story appeared on page B2.

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