Spotlight | The Journalists’ Obstacles

spotlight-1I’ve wanted to watch the Oscar-winning movie and true story of Spotlight for some time now. Sure enough, we watched it for our journalism class this past Friday, and it did not disappoint.

The story is about the Boston Globe newspaper’s four-person investigative journalist team, Spotlight. They pushed past social and institutional obstacles while uncovering the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal with its priests in Boston (which led to the uncovering of more cases worldwide).

In the movie, a representative of the Globe’s publisher mentions that 53 per cent of its subscribers were Catholic in 2001. In a city like Boston, the Catholic Church’s influence on the lives of many of its citizens is immense. The Spotlight journalists needed to cut through the social constraint and pressure from colleagues, friends, and family of pursuing a holy entity like the Catholic Church.

It felt like an insurmountable objective: reveal a scandal everybody knew about, but nobody wanted to acknowledge.

When Spotlight needed to interview the survivors of sexual abuse, the obstacle of trust was a factor. Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian said that the victims wanted nothing to do with the press and TV because of the guilt and shame they carried.

Journalists Mike Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) and Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) talked to the survivors with such understanding and respect, and made sure they knew the importance of including the disturbing details in their stories. The world needed to know about the ungodly things the priests did to them.

The Catholic Church is a powerful religious institution. It had its puppets in the Boston legal system. Rezendes spent most of the film waiting for sealed case files to be lifted by the court. It turned out that they were public files all along because of a motion from Garabedian. However, the files weren’t in the courthouse at all because the Catholic Church ‘didn’t want them there.’

When the Spotlight team found out there were no paper trails for past cases, they kept asking questions and dug for answers. Rezendes needed the patience and persistence to push for Garabedian’s trust and help. Garabedian finally let him know that the sealed case files they were waiting for were going to be public again after he refiled them. Rezendes scrambled hard to get his hands on those files. He needed to convince a judge to persuade the clerk to let him look at the files, then he needed to pay the guy all the cash he had just to photocopy them.

Lifetime friendships were tested to get the truth out as well. Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton), head of the Spotlight team, needed confirmation of 75 cover-up cases from the Catholic Church’s side in order for the story to be legitimized. He needed his friend and source Jim Sullivan, who represented the Catholic Church in most of the sexual abuse cases, to go on record and confirm the priests names. But Sullivan played it coy until the end.

Robinson stayed firm and told Sullivan he needed to be on the right side of things despite him only ‘doing his job.’ Sullivan was obviously torn, and in the end he realized that confirming the names of the pedophiliac priests was the ethical thing to do.

There are more obstacles that I’m missing, like the fact that Robinson realized he didn’t follow-up on the story five years before. All the evidence was sent to him and he didn’t pay it the attention it deserved. What a heavy self-obstacle. I believe, because of that, he was much more determined and motivated to get the story out, in order to rectify his own mistake.

But watch it for yourself. Try to view it from a journalist’s perspective. Would you push as hard as the Spotlight team did for the sake of the truth?


(Blog Challenge #9: Describe/detail the various obstacles the journalist characters in Spotlight faced in getting to ‘the truth’ and publishing their first exclusive story. Examine how they pushed past them to get the job done)


Tales by Light: Adrenaline


Photographer Krystle Wright walking in the salt flats of Utah; she is scouting out her landscape for a day of paramotoring shooting./Photo from Tales by Light, Netflix.

Tales by Light is a Netflix Original series that follows renowned photographers around the world as they search for mesmerizing shots of nature and culture.

This episode, aptly named “Adrenaline,” features adventure sports photographer Krystle Wright. She is documented trying to get her ‘dream shots’ of three different adventure sports: free diving in Vanuatu, highlining (slacklining across a canyon) in Colorado, and paramotoring (motor paragliding) in Utah’s salt flats.

The whole demeanour of the show is of a Planet Earth style. You could cheekily call it Planet Photography. A cultured sounding narrator and the photographer herself provide the commentary for the shooting process. It’s all about the photographer’s experience. The cinematography is incredible and the music bed is epic, over-the-top, and inspirational. What a dramatic life this nomad photographer leads.

The cinematography and sequencing of shots are top-notch, and the landscape settings where Wright finds herself are breathtaking. If you want to learn more about the behind-the-scenes process and less about the technical aspects of photography, watch this series.

The one downside of this series is that it doesn’t explain what equipment she uses, who she’s working for, nor if she is doing this solely for self-purposes. It ends with a testimonial monologue from Wright, explaining her motivational drive to be better and her love of adventure sport photography.

All in all, it’s a very interesting outlook on Wright’s career and creative process. “Adrenaline” gives an enticing glimpse into the life of a professional adventure sports photographer.

Final verdict: a series worth watching for an emotional, visually stimulating mood boost.


(Blog Challenge #8: Write a review of any TV show or film you wouldn’t ordinarily watch. Keep it to 275 words and don’t use the first person “I” pronoun)

Leonard Cohen, A Canadian Legend

Today, Nov. 10, the world said goodbye to a Canadian music legend: Leonard Cohen. With a career that spanned over five decades, Cohen, at the age of 82, has died. He was still touring and making music up until his death.

Cohen released his 14th studio album, You Want It Darker, only a few weeks ago. It was produced by his son, Adam Cohen, a great singer-songwriter in his own right.

Leonard Cohen’s iconic songs such as “Suzanne” and “Hallelujah” are renowned world-wide and have been covered by many other legendary artists. However, I’d like to share with you my dad’s favourite Cohen tune: “Bird on the Wire” from his 1969 album, Songs From A Room.

“[It is] a song that ruminates on the impossibility of freedom in a world rife with tethers,” said Jim Beviglia in his American Songwriter’s article ‘Behind The Song: Leonard Cohen, “Bird On The Wire.”’

I’ve included the lyrics below if you want to sing along.

Cheers to Leonard Cohen.

Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Like a worm on a hook
Like a knight from some old-fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee
If I, if I have been unkind
I hope that you can just let it go by
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you
For like a baby, stillborn
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “you must not ask for so much”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh, like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Songwriter: Leonard Cohen
Bird on the Wire lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
(Blog Challenge: Free week)