Putting the 'Spotlight' on investigative reporting

“Spotlight,” the Oscar-winning movie that tells the story of The Boston Globe’s investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, has been praised by journalists for its authentic portrayal of the work it takes to do in-depth reporting.

“Everyone should see the movie and should be cheering for good journalism,” said Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Information and Communications. “It’s reflective of what good journalism is supposed to be about. I’d love to have every journalism student see it. It shows you what you can do if you take the time to dig through records and knock on doors.”

The community will have the chance to hear from one of the central figures in the Oscar-winning movie on Wednesday (March 16). Boston Globe editor-at-large Walter "Robby" Robinson, who was portrayed in the film by actor Michael Keaton, is the speaker for the Buchheit Family Lecture. The lecture, titled "Investigative Reporting: How Hollywood Came to Celebrate What Newsrooms Believe is No Longer Worth the Cost," is at 7 p.m. in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications auditorium at Greene and Sumter streets. It is free and open to the public.

In conjunction with the lecture, the J-school will host a free screening of "Spotlight" for the Carolina community in the Russell House Theater at 6:30 p.m., Monday (March 14).

Bierbauer, a former CNN senior White House correspondent, knows Robinson from the days when they both covered the Reagan administration. Robinson left Washington for Boston, where he became an editor and led the Spotlight team at the Globe. Bierbauer said after seeing the movie, he knew he wanted to invite Robinson to speak at the school’s annual Buchheit Lecture

“The important thing about “Spotlight” is it gives people an understanding of what the work entails, and how it can uncover important failures on the part of people in supposedly trusted positions, in this case, the Catholic church,” he said.

Robinson, who led the Globe’s Spotlight team which won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, will discuss the movie and its implications about the future of investigative reporting. A 1974 graduate of Northeastern University, Robinson has worked for the Globe in a variety of roles since joining in 1972. He also served as distinguished professor of journalism at Northeastern University for seven years.

The Buchheit Family Lecture Series was created in 2000 in honor of the late Phil Buchheit, the former president and chairman of Mid-South Management Co. and the former publisher of the Spartanburg Herald-Journal. The series is sponsored by the Buchheit Family Endowment, which provides undergraduate scholarships and graduate and doctoral fellowships to students of the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

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