First amendment — a panacea or a crutch for the American society

Michael Rezendes as part of the Spotlight team, ( won the Pulitzer prize for public service (, and hearing him speak about how widespread the sexual abuse problem was/is in the Catholic Church, I wondered if he should be given the prize for international reporting. After all, the Vatican and the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse issues are not only prevalent in Boston, US. At least, the first amendment excuse only applies within the United States, and what could possibly be the excuse for the abuse across the globe. It appears that Michael Rezendes was chosen to the spotlight team based on his own reputation of not being egoistic and being complementary to the rest of the team.

The conversation with Michael made me introspect as to why the first amendment which is a foundation for press freedom, has become the platform for the President to say whatever he wants or to create alternate facts. What about the President’s tweets in the middle of the night, or not attending the white house correspondent’s dinner. Perhaps, that is also entrenched reputation that is kept up by those behaviors. Hasan Minaj, the Indian American Muslim comedian was really funny at the recent one where he talks about how freedom of speech is really important for upholding democracy.

Well, what does this have to do with reputation or challenging entrenched reputation! The examples above are about maintaining one’s reputation of playing by freedom of speech only for the President!! Luckily for the Boston Globe, the investigation occurred at the dawn of the internet era. There was no Facebook, Instagram or twitter or alternate news. The reputation of the Globe to provide authentic, factual news was upheld. Breaking down the entrenched reputation of the Catholic church as the paragon of morality through facts and transparency. Paradoxically, freedom of religion provided the air cover to withhold information while endangering children.

Clearly, reputation gets enhanced when the narrative is based on honesty and authenticity. It is fascinating that in the dawn of the internet era, the journalist’s reputation came from impeccable truths and transparency. It is imperative that the success of the catholic church story be leveraged to restore the freedom of the press: The key takeaway is that highest integrity and altruism are really critical when challenging entrenched reputation. In Spotlight, Michael had the conviction to continue working on this sex scandal at the Catholic church, knowing it was the right thing to do. He had to leverage his own reputation to mobilize the support of his peers at the Globe. Another big idea in this example for us to take away was organization vs. key players under the “Doctrine of Charitable immunity”. This can mitigate the challenges that a big Goliath can pose in such a scenario. In spotlight, that was achieved through prosecutors focusing on cases against individuals in the church vs. the archdiocese or the Church itself.

Reputation in journalism is all about diffusing the alternate facts and fake news and the more factual about the right and wrong in the view, the stronger the reputation, a movie to credit your work and a Pulitzer prize.

· Know thy reputation on why you are on the team, and why you need to protect it

· Be aware of the entrenched reputation of the opponent in the David vs. Goliath moment.

As we look forward to the next phases of our career beyond graduation, the lessons learnt through this conversation is not only about reputation. It is about leadership through a stellar reputation to change the world.

To preview the oscar winning movie based on the story: Spotlight,