February 28, 2017

Investigative Techniques – methods of how an investigative report begins and endures

Role of insider & outsider of the story

Taking place in Boston, Massachusetts there is a special branch of the Boston Globe Newspaper called Spotlight – they are investigative journalists. A 4-person investigative team.

“Once we settle on a project, we could spend a year or more investigating it.”

The new editor of the paper, Marty, stumbles upon an article written by a different reporter outside of the Boston Globe on the accusation that Priest Geoghan has molested kids in his parish over the past 30 years, and the cardinal law knew about his predatory sexual habits.

“Judging by what I’ve seen we haven’t done a really thorough job in investigating the case,” Marty discovered, seeing from the outside in. He assigns Spotlight to the case. This is how the investigation, initially, begins. He then discusses and goes forth with the newspaper establishment suing the Catholic Church.

Garabedian is the hard-ass lawyer who won’t give time to the reporters. “They’re watching me very closely… I probably shouldn’t even be speaking to you,” Garabedian says to one of the spotlight reporters, Michael Rezendes. This is a step in the investigation- talking with lawyers and those involved in the case being investigated.

Another step of the investigation is looking at any previous articles written about the case, or aspects of the case. Such as how certain priests are constantly shuffled between parishes for unknown or unspoken about reasons.

What isn’t a step, but is inevitable as depicted by the movie, is how an investigation is always on your mind, no matter what you do and no matter where you go.

Another step. Sasha Pfeiffer brings to the investigation a discovery of an organization called SNAP; Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. They hear from a man by the name of Phil Saviano, who spoke to Boston Globe reporters 5 years back but nothing ever got reported on and wasn’t taken seriously. They acquire information on predatory priests and other victims from Saviano.

“I know 13 priests here in Boston who have molested kids,” Saviano said.

Talking with victims and hearing their stories is the next step.

Rezendes hunts down Garabedian in the street, trying to talk with him once again and receiving rejection until he says he’s with Spotlight. Garabedian allows him to come back to interview a victim with Garabedian in the room. “Do you mind if I take notes?” Rezendes tries to gather rapport. “Are you going to tell my name?” The victim asks, and Garabedian says absolutely not. The victim talks about how he got molested, in detail, by Catholic Priest Geoghan. At the end, he says that Rezendes can use his name, and Garabedian says “he’s one of the lucky ones… He’s still alive.” Pfeiffer sits at a cafe with another victim, also asking if she can take notes, and hears about how he got molested, in detail, by Geoghan as well.

The investigation moves forward. They look at parish archives to find more information about priests, their parish circulations and records on any trials against the church… But there are no records on trials against the church because they’re all sealed documents and all of the trials are done in a private mediation, meaning only the defense attorney, priest and a judge are present; so cases against the church are kept on the hush.

Garabedian is an outsider of the church and of the investigation yet provides plenty of information on the church and victims and on how to go about the process of taking on the Church. “13 priests sounds low; my studies suggest that 6% of all priests act out in sexual predatory… That’s about 90 priests,” Garabedian tells Spotlight. Rezendes and Garabedian keep in touch constantly, even at add times. “The church keeps coming after me, especially when someone tries to speak out,” Garabedian says.

Books on the Catholic Church provide insight on what terms are used in the circulation process of priests, or to take them out of circulation;

  • Sick Leave
  • Leave of Absence

They look at these terms and see what priests in the area have been taken out of circulation due to these “leaves of absences”– which essentially are excuses to take priests out of circulation because they’ve been tried as sexual predators. They find 87 priests in the area who have been taken out of circulation because of these terms. They talk to Eric MacLeish, another hard-ass attorney not willing to talk at first, but admitted he already sent a list of victims to the Globe but that the list got buried. The case moves forward because MacLeish sends a list of victims to Spotlight that he’s defended in private mediations against the church; he’s defended against 45 different priests.

“Sounds like we’re going against the law,” … “We’re going against the system.” This is said because they’re going against the system of the church that doesn’t punish priests who are sexual predators and instead hides them, covers for them. The church doesn’t care about the victims, they care about their reputation.

Next, Spotlight talks to more victims.

Pfeiffer interviews Priest Paquin, and asks if he moelsted children. “Sure, I fooled around with them, but never for gratification for myself.”

“So you admit you molested boys at the church?”

“Yes but just to be clear I never raped them boys.”

“How do you know?”

“Because I was raped myself!” The sister of Paquin shuts out Pfieffer.

The next step of the investigation was to argue in court to get sealed documents to be available to the public; available to their team. Garabedian tips Rezendes that he filed a motion with some of those documents on that motion, meaning they’re already public but they’re missing – they are not there when you ask for them; the church doesn’t want them to be found so they hid them. Rezendes asks for another motion to get a refile of those motion documents but doesn’t want it to be done until he can be the first person to get those documents before anyone else because refiling the motion makes it public. They got them but because its only part of larger documents that would take down the church, they wait to publish them.

The rest of the sealed documents get ruled to be unsealed.

They have 6 weeks to write the story solid so that the whole church system can be taken down- not just the Cardinal law.

The defense of priests accused of being sexual predators finally confirms for the newspaper that their accusations are right. All 87 priests. Confirmed.

They write the story. They write a follow-up. They plan to provide the real letters online with a number to the spotlight hotline for any other stories or tips.

“You guys have all done some great reporting. Reporting that is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on community around us,” Marty says to the Spotlight team.

The story is ran. The phones don’t stop ringing with victims speaking out to the Spotlight hotline.

“Keep doing your work Mr.Rezendes,” Garabedian said before he went in to talk to 2 kids who have been sexually abused by their priest.

Pulitzer Prize

Spotlight Church abuse report





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