Spotlight: Two Newspapers, Two Exposés

The 2015 film Spotlight recently won the Critics’ Choice Award for Best Picture and earned six Oscar nominations. The film follows the Boston Globe’s investigation and reporting of the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal under Cardinal Bernard Law. The coverage began on January 6, 2002 and is widely credited with helping to uncover the depth of the scandal throughout the U.S. The Globe was awarded a Pulitzer for their reporting on the subject in 2003. But did you know that the story first broke in the Boston Phoenix almost a year earlier? Northeastern University’s Archives and Special Collections is the new home of the Boston Phoenix Collection, which contains over 30 articles and editorials covering the scandal. In particular, the collection includes Kristen Lombardi’s ground-breaking article “Cardinal Sin,” the evocative cover story of the March 23, 2001 issue. CardinalBlogedited1   Lombardi’s “Cardinal Sin” investigated the 25-plaintiff civil lawsuit against Father John Geoghan of the Boston Archdiocese, which additionally named Cardinal Bernard Law, Boston’s archbishop, as a defendant. The article uncovered Geoghan’s history of sexual abuse, his failed treatments, and his numerous reassignments by the Church in an attempt to hide the truth. In addition—through interviews with victims and an insightful evaluation of past abuse cases—Lombardi illustrated that the Church preferred to settle out of court and reassign those accused, offering no real solutions or justice. The Phoenix and Lombardi continued coverage of Cardinal Law and the sex abuse scandal through 2003. A bibliography and links to the articles are located in the Boston Phoenix Collection website archives. In publication from 1965 to 2013, the Phoenix remains an invaluable source of reporting on major Boston subjects—from school desegregation to LGBTQ issues to Occupy Boston—shining a light on the most controversial of topics. The paper has received multiple awards in journalism from the New England Press Association, the Penny-Missouri Newspaper Awards, and the American Bar Association Gavel Awards.