As a journalist I have always asked myself how I will keep my objectivity intact while writing a story which goes against my beliefs and faith. And I have no shame in admitting that this question has always left me numb and in distress. It’s not an easy task to admit that you’re wrong. But it’s much harder to accept that the people you idolize might be wrong, too.
Though I have been a journalist for almost a decade I have somehow avoided a situation so far where I have to write a story which drastically hits my faith and religion. Should it be the case I know it must have been hard for me as being a devoted Muslim.
Despite my strong religious affiliation I have never been loyal to clergy or priests and am a firm believer of the fact that the religious leaders are humans like us who may commit wrongdoings. But in the meantime I have always been careful, consciously or unconsciously, while writing about religion that it doesn’t harm or weaken peoples’ faith in what they believe (religiously) and doesn’t push them away from their religion (here it only refers to Islam). And I always do so keeping my objectivity and neutrality intact.
But I know I cannot always be as lucky and might face a situation in future where I have to write or report a story which might shaken my own beliefs as well as my fellow Muslims. Though I have dreaded that moment but I know I have to face it head-on whenever it comes. This is what my profession demands and this is what a journalist should do.
But I never knew how I will deal such a story until I came across the Boston Globe’s coverage of child molestation scandal by Catholic priests which ultimately became the subject of Oscar winning drama Spotlight. It reminded me of the fact that the journalists’ first and foremost responsibility is to be a watchdog in their society. Another takeaway of this experience is that the Journalists owe to their society more than anything or anyone else. And their own faith might be the casualty in repaying this debt.
I first watched the Spotlight when it was released in 2015. But I had not read the original coverage by the Globe twelve years before the movie hit the theaters until now. And it might be the reason the first screening of Spotlight didn’t have an impact on me the way it did this time. Having read the articles and watching the journalists on screen, who covered the scandal for Globe, grappling with their own emotions and beliefs was something which I can relate myself with.
This movie is a classic depiction of the war we journalists fight with ourselves and the price we pay in our struggle to seek truth and make it public which our readers usually remain unaware of.
But one thing which disturbs me about the Globe’s coverage of the scandal is its timing which I was unaware of until I read the stories. The first story of the series was appeared in the Globe on January 6, 2002, according to which the accused priest will face the “first of two criminal trials next week.” Though the movie doesn’t mention that the Globe’s coverage collided with the dates of the trial and it somehow makes it evident that the Globe’s editors were forced to delay the articles because of the 9/11 and other editorial concerns, the timing of the articles were still not convincible and it must have made an impression at the time that Globe tried to influence the court’s proceedings by publishing this series right ahead of the trial.
So, it is also important for the journalists covering such sensitive issues to make it sure that they shouldn’t give a slightest opportunity to their audience to suspect their motives as the trust matters the most in this profession.