Is The Boston Globe Doing Enough with Spotlight’s Oscar Win?


Though I was really rooting for “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I can’t be unhappy that Tom McCarthy’s sublimely well crafted “Spotlight” beat the odds and took home the Academy Award for Best Film of 2015 on Sunday night. Relative to its tally of car crashes, firearms, explosions and super-heroics, “Spotlight” boasts a higher voltage-to-narrative ratio than any film I saw last year. It’s a masterpiece of studied, careful storytelling that’s also intensely gripping from the first to the last.

It’s also a powerful case for the importance of journalism and for news organizations dedicated to a broader mission than just returning profits to shareholders. “Spotlight” recounts a horrific tragedy that the Catholic church perpetuated for decades; The Boston Globe’s reporting team that sits at the center of the movie literally changed the lives of millions of people.

Thoughtful news consumers generally don’t need much convincing that The Globe’s brand of investigative reporting is essential, but it’s rare to have that kind of work elevated to such a prominent position in popular culture. Thirty-four million people tuned into the Oscars broadcast on Sunday, and they all saw the Academy recognize the importance of such deeply committed journalism.

Given the newspaper industry’s habitually dim prospects, this is a golden opportunity for The Globe—if not news organizations everywhere—to remind the public at large how valuable their service is. The newspaper has set up a special page devoted to the movie and the original reporting that inspired it, but you’d almost miss the unassuming promo for it on the site’s home page, and there’s nothing at its sister site, If you think an Academy Award would be a huge opportunity for an ailing business, you might doubt how much that business really wants to be saved, judging from how unenthusiastically The Globe seems to be capitalizing on its ostensible windfall.

I’m not much of a marketer, but I’m sure it wouldn’t take much imagination to put together at least a year’s worth of promotion around this Oscar win. Not just giving it visibility on the newspaper’s sites, but running a full ad campaign, or sending its journalists on tour, or teaming up with other newspapers to talk about how critical it is that the public understands the enormous benefit that quality reporting returns to society. I’d like to think that the folks at The Boston Globe, being pragmatists by nature, were caught unawares by Sunday’s success. Maybe they’re regrouping this week and making plans to shout this story from the hills for a long, long time. I hope so, for everyone’s sake.