By Beth McGough
The critically-acclaimed movie Spotlight tells the story of The Boston Globe journalists and staff that uncovered the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in 2001. The Boston Globe librarian, Lisa Tuite, and her team played an important role in the story. I had the opportunity to speak with Lisa at the ALA Midwinter Meeting 2016.
Ms. Tuite’s first career was as a high school English teacher. She quickly learned teaching was not for her.
After teaching, she took a position at The Boston Globe putting newspaper clippings on cardboard, which were made into microfiche. While this practice didn’t last, Tuite had found her place as a librarian at The Boston Globe.
The Boston Globe library is involved in every Spotlight story. The library’s city directories were the catalyst for the story on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Librarians manually cross-referenced the directories to follow priests from parish to parish. As names of the priests involved in the scandal came to light, Tuite and her team researched the priests’ backgrounds. Tuite’s “research forensics” revealed the story.
City directories also played an important role in The Boston Globe’s coverage of Whitey Bulger. Tuite sat in the Globe’s basement going through directories to see where he and his family lived and when. News librarians did an immense amount of manual primary research before online research databases. Tuite remarked that the ProQuest Historical Newspapers™: The Boston Globe is amazing because researchers can find tiny articles that wouldn’t be discovered in the old print clippings files. While researching Whitey Bulger on ProQuest, she found an article about an industrial worker accident—the worker was Bulger’s father. It’s discoveries like these that can then weave seemingly unrelated pieces of a story together. Lisa remarked she would not have found this information without ProQuest.
During the course of Tuite’s career, she has watched journalism and news librarianship change dramatically. Tuite reflected on digitization as the greatest technological change that has impacted news libraries and investigative research. Librarians no longer need to work manually, through subject headings, to find a clip because articles are available digitally.
The Boston Globe’s news library has shrunk from 25 people in the late 1970s to only four today. Journalists are younger and able to search independently. Despite the ease of online search, compared to working with print clippings files, research is harder, Tuite shared. Journalists and researchers believe the information they need must be available somewhere. Tuite spends a lot of time fact checking to ensure every detail about a story is correct, from a street name to the exact corner an event occurred.
While Tuite spends a lot of time at The Boston Globe, in her free time she enjoys going to the movies and walking her dog on the beach. True to her passion for digging through information, mysteries are her favorite books.
Learn more about ProQuest Historical Newspapers™.