Spotlight, an edgy film based on the true story of the 2002 Boston Globe’s reporting of a sexual abuse epidemic within the Catholic Church, won the award for best picture at the 88th annual Academy Awards Feb. 28. This is a triumph for journalism at a time when some would like to put an end to investigative reporting and the press itself.
Journalism has struggled as an industry in recent decades due to the evolution of technology. Print papers are becoming less popular. People are looking online for news, but the need for accurate news sources has decreased as people default to social media to find “what is important.” While this trend may continue, real journalism cannot become irrelevant and silenced.
Without The Boston Globe’s efforts to report on the scandal, hundreds of victims would have gone without justice, and over 70 priests who victimized young children would have walked free and unpunished, as portrayed in Spotlight.
Not only did their reporting help the community of Boston, but it raised awareness of hundreds more molestation cases by priests throughout the world. Without these journalists, these stories would be buried and forgotten.
Just two days before the Academy Awards, republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump attacked the freedom of the press.
“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Trump said during his Fort Worth, Texas, rally Feb. 26.
Trump explicitly threatened The New York Times and The Washington Post, saying that when he is in office, they will “have problems.”
“You see, with me, they’re not protected because I’m not like other people, but I’m not taking money. I’m not taking their money,” Trump said. “We’re going to open up libel laws, and we’re going to have people sue you like you’ve never got sued before.”
Trump’s argument is already defeated in the Supreme Court case The New York Times vs. Sullivan. The court concluded the following about libel cases in the majority opinion written by William J. Brennan, Jr.:
“The Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements, even false ones, about the conduct of public officials except when statements are made with actual malice (with knowledge that they are false or in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity).”
While it may seem laughable that such a change could be made to alter this Supreme Court decision as well as our First Amendment rights, studies show that presidents are mostly successful, keeping 75 percent of their promises, according to political scientist Michael Krukones.
We, as journalists, need to do our duty and inform the public about the real dangers presented by Trump’s promise to limit our free speech.
Walter Robinson, the editor who led The Boston Globe’s investigative team, told The New York Times in a phone interview that the Best Picture award was a “needed shot in the arm for journalism,” reminding the public of “good reporting and the difference it can make in people’s lives — particularly the lives of people who have no one else to speak for them but us.”
This is the purpose of journalism. We are not the devil’s advocate, as some public figures would lead you to believe. We are a voice for the voiceless.
Our right to freedom of the press needs to be protected. While Trump and other political figures might not like what is being said about them, it isn’t illegal unless it is untrue.
Under Trump, journalists would be at the mercy of big names and corporations suing them for negative content, no matter how true it is. Our freedom of the press would be compromised and our readership left in the dark.
“Donald Trump has brought his grudge-match with the media to an extremely dangerous level for freedom of the press,” said Reporters Without Borders director, Delphine Halgand to CNN.
On the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, the U.S.’s press freedom is ranked 49 out of 180 countries.
If The Boston Globe reporters accepted the heat from the Catholic Church that the lawyers were put under to not talk about what had happened, no one would have known but those keeping it secret. Journalism takes bravery and willingness to go as far as needed to tell a truthful, fair story. Libel laws protect that.
Journalists were responsible for bringing the watergate scandal to light and countless other injustices that would have continued unnoticed by the American people unless the press brought it to the attention of the public.
Our leaders have recognized the importance of the press since the birth of our country.
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter,” said Thomas Jefferson.
Journalists are the voice of the people.
Our intent is not to make the world seem like a bad or scary place, but to bring to light the real dangers in the world and even in our own community so that our readership have the means of protecting themselves and their loved ones, as did the reporters for The
As journalists, the editorial board has a mission to change the bias against the press. We are not attacking people, we are reporting on the issues.
This election is about so much more than the next president. It is about protecting our freedoms. Take a stand and choose to defend your basic rights. Vote for the freedom to have and share your own ideas.
Scroll Editorial: Approved by a 28-0 vote from the Scroll editorial board.