As a journalist—if I play my cards right—I will most likely get to meet a lot of interesting people in my career. I never would have guessed that I would meet an Oscar nominated actor and a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist as a sophomore in college.
Let me rewind a little bit to explain.
Late last year, the Robert Morris Academic Media Advisor for RMU Sentry Media, Carrie Moniot, told the RMU chapter of the Society for Collegiate Journalists that we needed to see the recent film, “Spotlight.” After hearing the movie was about a special investigative journalist team, our group of student journalists was eager to see it. And we would eventually get to do a lot more than just simply watch this film.
For those of you who haven’t see the film and who are unaware of the plot, according to IMDb it’s “the true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.”
In early December, we were able to pick a day to go see the film. I don’t want to reveal any details of the film, but I highly recommend it. The Academy agrees as it is nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Mark Ruffalo), Best Supporting Actress (Rachel McAdams), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It has also won three Critic’s Choice Awards, one Screen Actor’s Guild Awards and one Writer’s Guild of America Award.
The movie prompted us to discuss investigative journalism, ethics and the film itself. We all loved the film and couldn’t stop talking about it. Walter “Robby” Robinson, editor-at-large of The Boston Globe was right when he said, “ This (“Spotlight”) was five months of work portrayed brilliantly in two hours and eight minutes.”
Little did we know that two months later most of us would be invited to a private screening of “Spotlight” at the SouthSide Works Cinema with Pittsburgh native, Michael Keaton, and the real-life Boston Globe editor he portrayed, Robinson.
On Feb. 23 the big day was finally here. We arrived at the SouthSide Works Cinema and walked on an actual red carpet into the gala. We walked inside not knowing what to expect. We spotted Provost David Jamison and his wife Sue. She told Provost Jamison that he needed to introduce Hannah Smith, the Sentry editor-in-chief, and myself to Michael Keaton. He lead the way walking right up to Keaton and proceeded to introduce us as journalists who attended Robert Morris. Keaton attended Robert Morris for a year before transferring to Kent State, so he was familiar with RMU.
Keaton talked with us about the Sentry and how we transitioned from print to being completely online. He even confirmed that he took drama classes from Thomas Gaydos, founding director of the Colonial Theatre. Keaton never performed in Colonial Theatre, but remembers taking his first drama class from Gaydos.
Following our conversation with Keaton, we walked into one of the theaters in the cinema and found our seats to watch “Spotlight.” Watching the film a second time was just as amazing as the first. After the movie ended, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Executive Editor David Shribman moderated a discussion between Robinson and Keaton.
Robinson was asked if his journalistic career prior to being on the Spotlight team had prepared him for what he was about to uncover.
“I started at the Boston Globe in 1972, and I’ve covered politics and government and I’ve done investigative reporting really all my career and then I’d been an editor for a number of years. And I just happened to take over this team a year before this story and I got to pick two of the reporters, Sasha and Mike,” said Robinson. “And I picked them because I knew that they worked well together… So I guess my skills as a reporter developed over the years and my ability to at least have a small group of people follow direction really did help.”
Shribman asked Keaton what he thought about newspapers and where they seem to be headed in a world that is becoming driven by technology.
“It may be the truth that we are seeing the beginning of the end of print journalism. I selfishly hope not because I like newspapers; I like the way newspapers smell, the way they feel. I like that I can fold it up and go back and read something….,” Keaton said. “There is a lot of young journalism students out here and it was interesting to hear them. It’s so great that they showed, first of all. And they looked so, like, eager, which is so exciting… The truth is that you go, ‘Yeah… it’s just going to be online.”
As you can imagine, Hannah and I were very excited when Keaton said this because he was talking about us. We had made a lasting impression on Michael Keaton and he loved our eagerness. It was interesting to hear Keaton, as an avid news fan, say he was willing to accept the transition to being online “as long as the journalism stays true.”
Being a young, student journalist, hearing what a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and an Oscar nominated actor had to say about journalism, a topic I am so passionate about, is definitely something I will remember forever. Listening to them talk about the film, and all that went into it, was intriguing to everyone in the audience, especially those with a journalism background.
One thing that stuck with me was something that Robison had said. In today’s society journalism has seemed to get a bad reputation, and there isn’t much faith in our generation to fix it. People often give me snarky remarks when I tell them I am studying journalism, but I always hold my head high and proud. Robinson supported my thoughts when he talked about young journalists.
“Pretty much everybody I know in my generation is not very optimistic about the future of newspapers, and maybe not so optimistic about the future of journalism. But, it’s entirely different with the young generation… They’re smart, they’re savvy, and they’re something else that you didn’t have to be when I was a young student, a young journalist, they’re entrepreneurial,” said Robinson. “They know that not only do they have to get all of the right reporting and editing skills, but they have to get multimedia skills. They know that they have to figure out how to do journalism from different platforms and they really go at it with gusto and they love the game.”
I’d like to think that myself, and my fellow journalists at RMU Sentry Media, fit his description.