Look for a rush of young people choosing to become investigative reporters after this year’s Oscar Best Picture win for Spotlight, set in 2001 about a team of reporters at a Boston newspaper that investigated the Catholic Church.
The film is a startlingly real look at how much work good journalism requires and how important that industry has been in this country. The thing that stood out about it to me was watching the characters have familiar conversations about how many resources to put into a difficult project.
I saw the film within a few days of making the tough decision to leave the newspaper industry after more than 20 years. One of Spotlight’s stars, Michael Keaton, starred in another newspaper movie that came out at the beginning of my own newspaper career.
The 1994 film, The Paper, was a drama/comedy set in a New York daily newspaper office and was the catalyst that helped me choose to major in journalism when I was at Auburn. I needed the nudge and the newspaper industry, as depicted in The Paper, looked like the kind of fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment kind of career that could hold my interest.
Early in my newspaper days, I was struck by how often I met people in totally different industries that told me they got their start at a newspaper, too. They spoke of it almost like it was just a big internship that would get them prepared to chase their next career as a jeweler, a politician, a priest or an entrepreneur.
The minute I got started in the 90s, the Internet began to erode the traditional print publication’s business model and affected its ability to play the same role in the community it always had. Our professors even told us we probably would not be able to retire in newspapers.
So, I tried to look at my newspaper career as just that – a job that was preparing me for whatever I was going to do when I grew up. A reporting job is perfect at that. A reporter will interview a lawyer, a shopkeeper, a civil engineer and an airport CEO all before lunch and will need to understand what’s going on in all four of their industries.
That is the kind of diverse industry knowledge I hope got me ready for my new career. Now, at ChappellRoberts, I have found a new fast-paced, never-a-dull-moment job in which I get to interact with a variety of industries.
As I step away from the newspaper industry, I hope Spotlight does for the next generation of reporters what The Paper did for me and inspires young people to take on the hard work of newspaper journalism.