Pictured above: Mark Ruffalo in a still from Spotlight during the film screening at the African Centre for Media Excellence. …

Pictured above: Mark Ruffalo in a still from Spotlight during the film
screening at the African Centre for Media Excellence.

When the extent of the horror became clear toward the end of Spotlight, a
film that tracks the Boston Globe investigation into Catholic church
pedophilia, the audience visibly recoiled, terrified by the scale of sex

I was terrified too. I couldn’t think of many newspapers that could carry
out such a painstaking probe today. How many abuses had we missed in
newsrooms with shrinking staff and vanishing watchdog teams? How many
crucial stories had gone unrevealed as turmoil gripped the news industry?

I couldn’t have picked a better time or place to watch Spotlight. I saw it
at a media screening by the African Centre for Media Excellence in Uganda,
a country with questionable press freedom credentials. I watched it
alongside fellows supported by IWMF, an organization that provides funding
for journalism so reporters can chase underreported stories in
underreported regions.

Was independent grant-based funding the future of investigative reporting,
I wondered.

The movie fired up the room full of journalists. Why can’t we do that kind
of reporting here, Ugandan journalists asked themselves in the
post-screening discussion.

Well, for one, chasing the trail of court documents, that prized tool of
muckrakers, was challenging in Uganda, one journalist noted.

Another piped up that it was possible to pursue tough investigations
through non-traditional means if you were scrappy enough. The bigger
problem could be reactionary journalism in Uganda, where insignificant
developments take precedence over lengthy enterprise reporting. “That’s
what’s killing our newsroom,” a journalist said.

One young reporter said she was astonished that a hot scoop like the one
shown in Spotlight could survive unpublished for months as reporters
painstakingly built their case.

In the age of social media and in an industry that too often rewards speed
over depth, that long-drawn noble pursuit felt quaint.

Yet, there’s reason for hope.

One of the awards the Boston Globe investigation won was the Goldsmith
Prize for Investigative Reporting in 2003. That same prize recently
announced its finalists for this year. They are all excellent works of hard
hitting journalism that remind us that topnotch watchdog reporting still
takes place.

As one Ugandan journalist put it: ”The future is bright.“

– Sruthi Gottipati