“Spotlight” is “All the President’s Men” for a new generation

MV5BMjIyOTM5OTIzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDkzODE2NjE@._V1__SX1152_SY632_On Thursday night I had a chance to see an advance screening of “Spotlight,” sponsored by Northeastern’s School of Journalism and the College of Arts, Media and Design. And I was blown away. How often does a movie for which you have high expectations actually live up to them?

As soon as it was over, Northeastern’s Barry Bluestone said something that I was thinking: this is “All the President’s Men” for a new generation. It is at least as good a piece of filmmaking. And it underscores the vital role that journalism plays in hold powerful institutions to account — in this case the Catholic Church, which at one time was the most powerful Boston institution of all.

After the film, five of the Globe journalists portrayed in the film — Walter Robinson, Michael Rezendes, Matt Carroll, Sacha Pfeiffer and Ben Bradlee Jr. — stuck around for a brief discussion. (By the way, I know Robinson fairly well, and Michael Keaton is scary-good at capturing his demeanor.) Two of them, Robinson and Carroll, are Northeastern graduates. Robinson also worked as a journalism professor at Northeastern for seven years before returning to the Globe in 2014.

Congratulations to everyone involved in “Spotlight.” I hope it helps the public understand why the work that great journalists do matters to all of us.

Hacking their way toward journalism’s future

I was going to try to write up last night’s Hacks/Hackers meeting at Microsoft’s Cambridge headquarters. But I can’t do any better than Kyle Psaty, who covers it for the BostInnovation blog. Hosted by Matt Carroll of the Boston Globe, the gathering brought together about 75 journalists and technology folks. What follows are just a couple of quick observations.

Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg of Flowing Media showed off a new data-presentation tool taking campaign-finance information from MapLight.org and slicing and dicing it in a number of different ways. Interesting, though the tools Viégas and Wattenberg demo’d struck me as a little exotic. Globe technology reporter Hiawatha Bray was very excited, so I’m sure those more technologically adept than I will find uses for it.

Somewhat more down-to-earth was a project called Pinyadda, a website that combines journalism, community and social networking. Based on the presentation made by Austin Gardner-Smith, the Boston-based company’s vice president for product and development, Pinyadda may be groping its way toward a just-right space between Digg (too dumb) and NewsTrust (too hard). I’m hoping to find the time to play with it and see for myself.

I learned a few things, met some interesting people, ate some free pizza — what more can you ask for?

A project where nothing was done right

It leaks. A woman was killed when a concrete ceiling tile fell off and crushed her. It virtually bankrupted the state.

And now we learn, from Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll, that the folks who gave us the Big Dig even managed to botch the little things in deadly ways: a pedestrian railing with unnecessarily sharp edges was installed too low, resulting in deaths and dismemberment.