For the real Spotlight team, the end of the movie was only the beginning

What happened “after the credits rolled.’’

Kerry Hayes / AP

Warning: This story contains possible spoilers for those who don’t know anything about Spotlight or the story behind the movie.

Spotlight opened at the AMC Boston Common theater last Friday and hits four more area theaters today. Those who’ve seen Spotlight by now know that the movie ends, as The Boston Globe’s Walter “Robby’’ Robinson puts it, “at the end of the beginning,’’ just as the paper’s major investigative story on the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is published in the Sunday Globe. The final scene shows the Spotlight team in their office taking a high volume of phone calls—survivors had seen the newspaper article and wanted to share their stories.


Those who’ve followed the real-life investigation know that the Spotlight team’s reporting didn’t end there. Since that original story was published in January 2002, the Spotlight team and other reporters at the Globe wrote more than 600 follow-up stories, ones that examined individual priests, victims, other clergy members, and the Catholic Church’s handling of the scandal.

Because Spotlight ends where it does, it neglects to credit some of the other major players in that follow-up reporting: Globe reporters Steve Kurkjian, Tom Farragher, Kevin Cullen, and Michael Paulson. Robinson said those guys are “four of the best reporters on the planet.’’

“The movie misses the fact … that four other extraordinary reporters who shared in our Pulitzer Prize joined us soon thereafter,’’ Robinson said. “We could not have done what we did in 2002 without them being an integral part of our team.’’

From left to right, Boston Globe journalists Ben Bradlee Jr., Mike Rezendes, Sacha Pfeiffer and Walter “Robby” Robinson.

However, Robinson noted that if Tom McCarthy, the film’s director and co-writer, had actually delved into that subsequent 18 months of reporting, no one would have been as interested in the movie.

“He made a decision, in a dramatic sense probably the right decision, to end the film when the first story comes out,’’ Robinson added.


Sacha Pfeiffer — at the time a Spotlight reporter on the investigation and now a Globe writer and columnist — agreed.

“They would have had to cover Cardinal Law resigning, and the Archdiocese on the brink of bankruptcy,’’ Pfeiffer said. “I think this just helped make the movie more manageable.’’

All that said, a few of the journalists said they still debated whether or not the final scene would miss the mark.

“I remember reading the script originally and not being sure about that ending,’’ said Ben Bradlee Jr., The Boston Globe’s assistant managing editor at the time.

“I didn’t like that last scene because on paper it read flat to me,’’ Robinson said. “It was like going out on a low note. And I raised that, and Tom [McCarthy] kept shaking his head and saying, ‘No, no, this will work.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, OK, it’s your decision.’’’

McCarthy did, indeed, stick with his decision.

And Bradlee and Robinson are definitely now on board.

“I think the thing that astonished me most when we saw the rough cut, which was now four to five months ago, was how powerful that scene was in the end,’’ Robinson said.


“The phone was ringing off the hook. That’s the impact of the story,’’ Bradlee recalled. “Others wanted to come forward to tell their story and found now that a light was being shined felt strong enough to do so.’’

Spotlight reporter Michael Rezendes shared a similar sentiment: “The dam burst. There were all these victims who thought they were alone, suffering in silence. All of a sudden, they realized they were not alone. … All of a sudden, a lot of them wanted to talk about it.’’

Eric Levenson also contributed reporting to this story.

Who’s who in Spotlight:

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