By Sacha Pfeiffer, The Boston Globe

‘Spotlight’ on the IRE Radio Podcast

Listen to Pfeiffer, Walter Robinson and Marty Baron discuss the Globe’s reporting in 2002 and 2003.

Fifteen years ago, my Boston Globe Spotlight team colleagues and I published our first story about the Catholic Church’s widespread cover-up of clergy sex abuse. It was a decades-long practice aimed at avoiding public scandal: paying secret settlements to victims, dissuading them from going to the courts or police, promising to remove accused priests from circulation – and quietly returning abusers to parishes, where they often abused again.

Our reporting ultimately consumed nearly two years of our lives, resulting in more than 1,000 stories. And it taught me – then a 29-year-old reporter – some of the most important and enduring lessons of my life: the importance of questioning authority, the risks of being blindly deferential to powerful institutions, and the immense value of investigative journalism. 

As our industry struggles with its financial challenges, investigative reporting is increasingly viewed as an unaffordable luxury. It requires the support and patience of editors and publishers willing to give reporters months – sometimes years – to focus on a single project. The payoff can be enormous, and it can be vital to a healthy democracy. But this type of work is at risk of becoming an endangered species.

To help keep investigative reporting robust, the Boston Globe is awarding a $100,000 fellowship – sponsored by Open Road Films, Participant Media and First Look Media – to one or more individuals or teams of journalists to work on in-depth research and reporting projects. The chosen journalist(s) will collaborate with established Spotlight reporters and editors, and submissions will be accepted through March 1, 2017. We encourage anyone interested to apply. For more information and an application, go to www.spotlightfellowship.com.

 

Sacha Pfeiffer, a print and broadcast journalist, was a member of the Boston Globe Spotlight team that won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its stories on clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church. That reporting is the subject of the movie Spotlight, in which Pfeiffer is played by actress Rachel McAdams.