February 3, 2016

Before working as a producer on “Spotlight,” Blye Faust appreciated the work of investigative journalists and the need for investigative reporting.

“But I don’t think I really fully comprehended the necessity and its reach and depth and power until ‘Spotlight,'” she said.

The film, which tells the story of Boston Globe journalists discovering a child molestation cover-up in the Catholic church, recently won the Screen Actors Guild award for outstanding cast in a motion picture. It’s also nominated for several Academy Awards, most notably in the best picture category.

“It hit us that if they had not done what they had done, would we be sitting here still in the dark? And if not, how long would it have taken people to put the pieces together in the way that they did?” Faust said in a phone interview with Poynter. “That, to us, was an incredibly powerful thought. It immediately drove home to us the importance of the work that these guys do.”

Last week, Faust joined the board of directors of The Center for Investigative Reporting. Before making “Spotlight,” Faust and the co-founder of her production company, Nicole Rocklin, knew changes had hit journalism.

“But I don’t think we fully comprehended the depth of the adverse effects, in particular with these investigative teams,” Faust said. “I took it for granted that they had these investigative units and they did deep investigative reporting and they had the resources to do it.”

In December of last year, Margaret Sullivan, The New York Times’ public editor, wrote about the uncertain future of local investigative journalism.

Martin Baron — who pushed hard for the church investigation from his first day as chief editor of The Globe, and is now executive editor of The Washington Post — is uneasy about the future of local investigative reporting. “It’s a cause for grave concern,” he told me.

At the moment, he said, investigative journalism at the local level isn’t dead. “There’s a fair amount that is still going on. Some fine work is being done. But resources are diminished and the will to do this work may have atrophied.”

In the second part of her series, Sullivan notes the some smaller news organizations have increased their investigative reporting efforts, and there are newer organizations doing investigative work, too.

In addition to national nonprofits — including ProPublica, the Center for Investigative Reporting and the Center for Public Integrity — many cities now have local ones. (The Texas Tribune probably is foremost.)

The story told in “Spotlight” shows what journalists at the Globe were able to do then, Faust said, and it speaks to the power and necessity of what other investigative news teams and organizations can do now.

“It shows the power to change the world. They really did. That, to me, is astounding,” she said. “This is a local story. This is a local team of journalists doing work, boots on the ground, knocking on doors, meeting people face-to-face, and the work that they did on a local level ended up being a global story. In terms of journalism, that is something we’ve really lost, that local reporting, and it’s something that we all need.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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