After Sunday’s Oscar win, ‘Spotlight’ journalists are ready to get back to work
Walter Robinson is still a little hoarse.
It's been less than 24 hours since "Spotlight," the dramatization of The Boston Globe's investigation into the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, pulled off a stunning upset at the 88th annual Academy Awards.
Robinson, who led the depicted investigation as the editor of The Boston Globe's Spotlight team, was in attendance Sunday night. When the movie won Best Picture, he did plenty of shouting.
"We’re just delighted," said Robinson, who's portrayed in the movie by Academy Award nominee Michael Keaton. "I think going into last night, we felt a little uncertain about Hollywood. We felt that 'Spotlight' was the most important movie of the year, but we didn’t know if Hollywood would equate that with Best Picture."
Robinson and his Globe colleagues, who've been in Los Angeles since the end of last week, stayed out until after midnight celebrating the win with actors who portrayed them in the film. The festivities were a nice reminder that Hollywood, which often caters to America's "baser desires," has an appreciation for serious stories, Robinson said.
"It’s an affirmation of the importance of in-depth journalism of all sorts against long and lengthening odds," Robinson said. "It’s a reminder to the public that if the press doesn't hold powerful individuals accountable, no one else will. And it’s a great shot in the arm for newspaper journalism — particularly when there’s so little to be excited about.”
Sacha Pfeiffer, the former Spotlight reporter portrayed by Rachel McAdams in the movie, remembers "pandemonium" among her colleagues when the win was announced but says that she was in a state of "stunned silence." In the moments leading up to the announcement, she was bracing herself to console her friends after "The Revenant" won.
She says she and her colleagues attended three after-parties — the Governor's Ball, the party held by the production company and the Vanity Fair party. She's approached the glitz and glamour of Hollywood from the perspective of an outside observer rather than a participant, she said.
“Our jobs give us access to fascinating people and places that we don’t normally get access to, and this movie has done the same thing," Pfeiffer said. "It’s let us parachute into Hollywood.”
The win didn't go unmarked back in Boston. The newspaper's front page featured an image celebrating the actors who took home the Oscar, and an inside page was dominated by a house ad thanking the actors and reporters who worked together to tell the story of the investigation.
Mike Sheehan, the CEO of The Boston Globe, read the news Monday morning — on The Boston Globe's site, of course. He said the positive attention around the movie makes a good business case for "any newspaper that does really good investigative journalism."
Brian McGrory, the editor of The Boston Globe, said the Oscar was a win for journalism writ large. But credit for the award goes to the filmmakers.
"Let's be clear: The Globe didn't win the Oscar," McGrory said. "We won the Pulitzer Prize for that body of work back in 2003. But there's no denying that last night's recognition is a boost for morale, an extremely public acknowledgement of the importance of so much about this business that we hold sacred, namely holding powerful institutions accountable. This should transcend the Globe to newsrooms all across the country."
In the lead up to last night's Oscar win, the entire Globe newsroom felt a sense of pride stemming from the critical success of the movie, said Joe Sullivan, an assistant managing editor at The Globe. It's reinforced the notion that investigative reporting is important — even on the sports section, which he supervises.
Amid the recent cutbacks at The Boston Globe, Sullivan says he's had staffers ask if the sports department can afford to have investigative reporter Bob Hohler take deep-dives into high-impact stories like the sex abuse scandal in the Boston Red Sox clubhouse.
“My answer to them was, we can’t not afford to have Bob Hohler not do what he does,” Sullivan said.
Ultimately, the journalists dramatized in "Spotlight" are looking forward to reporting, writing and editing more stories, Robinson said.
"We look forward to getting back to asking questions rather than answering them," Robinson said.
"If ‘Spotlight' hadn't been named Best Picture, nothing would have changed for us. But the fact it did, well, it means we'll walk a little taller for the day, maybe the week, and then get the hell back to the important work of journalism."