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The daily newspaper is not much in vogue these days. It’s having trouble staying alive. Ad revenues are way down and its future looks bleak. There is even talk of it disappearing. That would be terrible.

{mosads}No other institution in American life plays the role that the daily newspaper does. It tells the story of our lives; the ups and the downs of our existence. The characters and just plain ordinary people who shape our world are discovered and profiled.

Probably its most important, indispensible function is that it views itself as totally independent, a force that is beholden to no one. Its mission and purpose is to discover the truth, and then tell that truth to their readers.

There are times when a movie shows the world something in a way that no other medium can. This week I saw such a movie: “Spotlight.” The scene is Boston. The subject is the silence of, and cover-up by, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church concerning sexual molestation by priests in the archdiocese.

The Spotlight Team is an investigative unit of the Globe. It is dedicated to uncovering the unpleasant, dirty, corrupt, unsavory and indecent features of institutions that are unexamined and whose members believe that they are so powerful that you wouldn’t even dare to question them. The Globe takes on the Catholic church in Boston, tells their dirty secret and holds their leader, Cardinal Bernard Law, accountable.

The movie is a tribute to the daily print newspaper, which has the resources and talent to let journalists do their job and do it like no other American institution can. It takes enormous effort and skill and, most of all, time, to properly and thoroughly do what needs to be done. The movie takes you along for the ride.

What moved me the most is the persistence of the journalists to get the story and get it right. They knew that no one would be protected or spared from criticism. Best of all, an institution that was such an integral part of the city of Boston was no longer allowed to escape the same scrutiny as everyone else. No sacred cows. No holier than thous. Sectors of the community would be in some special category of awe and reverence, exempt from critique.

Investigative units of daily newspapers play a role that it is essential to democracy. If daily print newspapers are eliminated, those units go away as well. There are powerful institutions in this country who would very much like to keep operating in their own way, without review or illumination. They don’t believe that newspapers are supposed to be antagonistic or oppositional. They think of them as members of the “club.” Great newspapers do not think of themselves as members of any club.

Go see “Spotlight” and, tomorrow, be grateful when you hear that early morning thump when your newspaper arrives at your door.

Plotkin is a political analyst, a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a columnist for The Georgetowner.

Tags Archdiocese of Boston Cardinal Bernard Law investigative reporting media Newspaper print newspaper Roman Catholic Church The Boston Globe

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