Placing a Spotlight on ethics

spotlightSpotlight is a movie about a four person investigative journalist team Spotlight who work for the Boston Globe. Starring Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Michael Keaton, the group uncovers a city-wide scandal of child molestation within the Catholic Church. The Spotlight team spends months talking to victims, getting statements, and dissecting the cover-ups within the local Catholic Archdiocese.

Chasing an investigation as big and important as the one in Spotlight, many journalists would do anything to get the story. Some may say “the end justifies the means”, but I think the actions taken by the Spotlight team proves that you can act ethically while still getting the story. Each of the journalists were persistent, committed, and used logical thinking to uncover the truth. Everything Spotlight reported on was accurate, and factual; they waited until they had the full story, not just the first snippet they uncovered; and then ensured that all documents they published were made public first.

During the movie, I noticed only one moment where the Spotlight team’s actions could be  questioned. Walter “Robby” Robinson and Sarah Pfeiffer threaten lawyer Eric MacLeish for the list of cases he had privately settled with the church.   Robby gave him an ultimatum for which story he would prefer to be published, “we got a story about degenerate clergy, and we got a story about a bunch of lawyers turning child abuse into a cottage industry. Now, which story do you want us to write, cause we’re writing one of them.” The team got the list.

I think there is a difference between ethics and morals. How the Spotlight team acquired their information was ethical, but to some it may not have been moral. I think that they did what they had to do to help the city of Boston and tell the story. MacLeish needed a push. His information was crucial to putting the pieces together and publishing the factual story . Spotlight needed hard evidence of what was going on. Without it, nothing would change and the people of Boston would still be in the dark.

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