Before we went to see the movie “Spotlight,” the film based on the Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation into widespread pedophilia by Catholic priests and the church’s systemic cover-up of the abuse, my wife, a former newspaper hack like myself, said, “This is going to make us sad.”
And it did.
I never won a Pulitzer Prize, although at various points in my career I have worked with people who have. I presume no claim to their honor, but mention this as a way of saying I understand the work ethic, focus and passion that propelsordinary people who are good journalists into extraordinary people who are great ones.
“Spotlight” highlighted the scarcity of those things those people in my life.
Ever since I left the newsroom in San Francisco in 2000 to join a start-up, a short-lived, but lucrative adventure, I’ve wondered how to get back – not to a newspaper, necessarily, but to journalism and to the sense of purpose that imbues all the best moments of its practice.
But, I am poorly self-directed, too easily distracted and (still) foolishly insecure, a terrible recipe for someone hoping to resurrect an idea he abandoned and left molder in the closet of past decisions. Suffice to say, I didn’t find my way back (the unsuccessful itinerary is another story.) “Spotlight” made me wish I had.
This is not a regret (those I possess, but they have to do with people), but a realization made in the unforgiving light of age. I am not one to look back too often, but it’s fair to say that when I do I linger. I see the choices not made. I see the roads rejected. I see the work undone. I see the people left behind.
It would be easy, and natural, I think, to conflate the nostalgia of those newspaper days with hormonal headiness of youth. I was young then, and headstrong and arrogant and just smart enough to learn things quickly, like so many others I worked with. We were inflated with purpose, self-worth and the potency of the (then) power of the press.
Is that what “Spotlight” made me miss – my youth? Or, was it the journalism and, in the realm of the old San Francisco Examiner, the assemblage of great talents and even greater egos who produced it at its peak?