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Sunday, March 20, 2016
Academy Winner Puts Spotlight On Media & Books
though I see plenty of movies in the theater every year, I somehow didn’t get
to see Spotlight, the Oscar winner
for Best Picture of the Year, until mid-March.
The wait was worth it. Though the
story was nicely told. I don’t believe
it deserved the grand prize. But I did
find it fascinating to see how the movie portrayed The Boston Globe as it broke a huge story about the Catholic Church
cover-up scandal of protecting pedophile priests. As the movie pointed out, the paper in its
own way, hadn’t done enough to expose the truth until an elite unit of the
paper, called Spotlight, took the
interest, time and resources to write an in-depth well-researched piece of
award-winning journalism. Any author
could do the same thing.
don’t just cover a news item and move on the way newspapers do. The book’s
power and appeal as it goes, and gathers information in such a comprehensive
way that it brings people to swiftly judge or think in a certain way. A book, page after page, overwhelms the
reader, with facts, questions, and arguments.
A book that zones in on an important topic and applies journalistic
ethics and principles to the gathering of information, conducting interviews
and properly analyzing data will go a long way to making a convincing argument.
the type of reporting conducted by The
Globe back then, in 2001, is not being done today. Cutbacks in the newsroom and a reliance on
newswire stories, secondhand reporting on tweets and You Tube videos, and a
smaller amount of space to report the news have all conspired to dilute our
media. So, the irony here is we have more media outlets than ever before, but
we have fewer institutions – like a New
York Times – to adequately construct in-depth, investigative pieces.
needs to be done by authors and their books.
But many authors don’t have access to the tips, insights or rumors that
newsrooms uncover or are exposed to. So
today’s author depends on hints of a story worthwhile pursuing, but the
shrinking media makes fewer stories – and hints – available.
a close link between journalism and books. Many, many, many books – fiction or
non-fiction – take a lead from what the media reports on. In fact, many books are written by
journalists. Fewer journalists, fewer
books. Fewer unique stories published by
the media, fewer seeds or ideas for books.
See the pattern?
Newsweek has been writing in-depth pieces
since it reappeared on the newsstand a year or two ago. Other magazines will also go deeper into a
story than a daily paper. But few investigate something like TheGlobe
stories simply can’t be told neatly in a short newspaper article. Some things need a deeper look, but who has
the time and resources to do this? It’s
up to authors to go it alone and defend our democracy. Authors need to investigate the powers that
be – the government, the wealthy, the politicians, the crime syndicates, the
charities, the schools, the church – and even the media.
current checks and balances is out of wack.
The three branches of government watch each other – the executive,
judicial and legislative. The Fourth
Estate – journalism – watches the first three.
The Fifth Estate – online media – comments on everything and shapes these
quips instantaneously. All of them work
together to expose one another – or to collude and help their self-serving
interests. It’s the author and her book
that, in my view, hold the country together. Authors are an independent army of trained eyes, educated cars, and
well-intentioned people who can write books that make a difference.
means we need to teach writers to become better at what they do. Writers need to produce books based on facts,
not beliefs or ideologies. They need to
present the truth in a fair manner. They
need to know how to conduct research, interviews, and data analysis. Our society will depend on how good our
authors are at uncovering and presenting the truth.