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The Movies and the Catholic Sex-Abuse Scandal: A Conversation with Robby Robinson

  • Whidbey Island Center for the Arts 565 Camano Avenue Langley, WA, 98260 United States (map)

Join us for a conversation between WICA board member Robert W. Merry and Walter (Robby) Robinson, longtime reporter and editor for the Boston Globe, whose assignments have included national political reporter, White House correspondent, Middle East correspondent, and editor of the Globe’s “Spotlight” team, its investigative unit. Robby led the "Spotlight" team in exposing, for the first time, the sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and the church's method of handling it, which was to keep it under wraps and avoid dealing with priests clearly guilty of abusing young boys. These early stories in the Globe led to the unraveling of the church's stonewall strategy and to widespread exposure of a church-wide scandal that caught the attention of America and the entire world. The Globe won a Pulitzer Prize for its investigative reporting.

The story of how the Globe managed to get the first stories about this system of abuse, and thus expose the scandal, is filled with drama and intrigue reminiscent, in many minds, of the Woodward/Bernstein effort to expose Watergate, though perhaps the Boston Globe stories were of a smaller magnitude. Nevertheless, the journalistic approaches and principles were the same. Based upon his reading of a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism case study on the on the Globe’s reporting, movie director Tom McCarthy decided to make a movie based on the investigation titled “Spotlight” which features an array of top actors: Michael Keaton, Mark Ruffalo, Rachael McAdams, and Liev Schreiber. Keaton plays Robby, who is the central character in the drama.

The evening’s conversation will focus on three points: first, a brief discussion of who Robby is, his background, what drove him into journalism and toward his multiple accomplishments; second, the drama and difficulty involved with the Globe’s investigation of the Catholic priest scandal under Robby’s leadership (but with immense contributions from many others); and third, what it’s like to have a movie made about you and to participate closely in the making of such a movie. Join us for this in-depth examination of a pivotal story, and with a person who made history.

By special arrangement with the film’s distributor, and with the assistance of Mr. Robinson and Mr. Merry, The Clyde Theater in downtown Langley has received special permission to screen the film while in wide theatrical release. Mr. Robinson will be at the Clyde’s showing of the film on December 4th. Entertainment Weekly wrote that film festival critics at Telluride, Venice, and Toronto all said the same thing: “Tom McCarthy’s ‘Spotlight’ will be a major awards player this Oscar season.” The magazine adds, “It’s the very definition of an ensemble piece, mirroring the teamwork and culture that defined the Globe’s staff.”

Robert W. Merry, a Washington native, spent forty years in Washington, D.C. as a political reporter, newsroom executive, corporate CEO, political commentator, and historian. He covered Congress, the White House and national politics for The Wall Street Journal for a decade, then spent 22 years at Congressional Quarterly as the company’s top editor and CEO. After CQ was sold to The Economist of London in 2009, Merry became editor of the foreign policy journal, The National Interest. Merry’s books include biographies of postwar columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop and also President James Polk, who took America into the Mexican War and expanded U.S. territory by a third. The Alsop book won an Ambassador award from the New York-based English-Speaking Union, while the Polk biography was a New York Times bestseller. Merry now lives on Whidbey Island, where he is working on a book on William McKinley and America’s march toward empire.

All Seats $25


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Earlier Event: December 6
The Addams Family - A Musical
Later Event: December 11
The Addams Family - A Musical