10 Press Exposés That Made a Difference

Exposing a Sex-Abuse Cover-up (2001-02)
Oscar-winning screenwriter Josh Singer, left, speaks about the film "Spotlight" in the newsroom of the Boston Globe on April 5, 2016. The Globe won a 2003 Pulitzer Prize for its reporting on the clergy abuse scandal. Keith Bedford/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Back in 2001, Boston Globe columnist Eileen McNamara wrote a scathing column about a local Roman Catholic priest, Rev. John Geoghan, who was a defendant in a civil lawsuit brought by 25 men who accused Geoghan of raping them as children [source: McNamara]. The newspaper's new editor, Martin Baron, read the column and asked the newspaper's Spotlight investigative team to launch a wider probe of pedophile priests and what the church leadership had known about their crimes.

The Spotlight reporters went after the case with zeal, publishing more than 600 stories [source: Boston Globe]. Their initial article, published in January 2002, laid out in heartbreaking detail how Geoghan allegedly had molested more than 130 children at a half-dozen parishes over three decades — and how archdiocesan officials had failed to stop him, even though they had "substantial evidence" of his predatory tendencies [source: Carroll, Pfeiffer and Rezendes].

The Globe eventually unearthed evidence of a systematic cover-up of other child molestation cases. The Pulitzer Prize-winning effort led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, and the payment of billions in damages to molestation victims [source Laporte]. The story became basis of the movie "Spotlight," which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2016.