For 50 years, the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team has published hard-hitting investigative work. Its 2003 Pulitzer Prize winning series on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was even turned into a Hollywood movie in 2015 (“Spotlight”) and took home two Oscars. Since the film came out, the Globe along with Participant (a co-producer of “Spotlight”) have offered the Spotlight Investigative Journalism Fellowship, which awards up to $100,000 to investigative reporters every year. This year, the Globe is partnering with the Portland Press Herald in Maine to produce a multi-part investigative report that will be published by both organizations this fall. The partnership is the first for the program.
According to Scott Allen, assistant managing editor for projects, the Globe had been thinking of extending the fellowship to other newsrooms after seeing so many local newsrooms lose resources and staff members, or close its doors entirely. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, those losses only intensified.
“The average newsroom is just so completely tied up trying to cover current events that it’s harder for them to step back and do more in-depth reporting,” Allen said. “This felt like something we can do and should.”
So, the Globe opened applications to freelance reporters and other newsrooms and multi-reporter teams. The paper also extended its usual spring deadline to Sept. 24, 2020. From there, the paper selected the Press Herald’s Penelope Overton, who covers the lobster industry, and will be the lead reporter for the Maine newspaper.
“I’m surprised, delighted and honored to be named a Spotlight Fellow,” Overton said. “The chance to work with the storied team at the Globe is exciting… I think the Globe and the Press Herald are a match made in heaven. While our circulation and budget are smaller than the Globe’s, the Press Herald is the state paper in Maine, and, like the Globe, takes its responsibility to provide in-depth news coverage seriously. I like to say we punch above our weight.”
In addition to Overton, Press Herald managing editor Steve Greenlee—who spent 12 years as an editor at the Globe—will also be actively involved in the process. The Globe team will contribute other staff, photographers and videographers as needed, said Allen. Both newsrooms will make resources available—such as photography, videos, and graphics—for the program.
When E&P spoke with the Allen, both newsrooms were in talks to launch the investigative work. Though this kind of partnership is a first for the Globe, he anticipates it will go well, and they will again accept applications from other newsrooms when applications open back up.
“I think when you see the results of this investigation, you will feel like this was time well spent,” Allen said. “(We’ll be) helping a local news organization, and at the same time, produce something of great interest.”
For more information, visit spotlightfellowship.com.