WATERVILLE — As a government major and member of the varsity hockey team at Colby College in the 1960s, Ben Bradlee Jr. had no intention of pursuing a career in journalism.

But after serving in the Peace Corps for two years following his 1970 graduation, the Manchester, New Hampshire, native landed a job at the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California and went on to work as a reporter, editor and then deputy managing editor at the Boston Globe. He left the Globe in 2014 after 25 years.

Bradlee and a team of investigative reporters at the Globe are the subject of the recent film “Spotlight”, which recounts the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation by the newspaper into decades of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and its coverup. The Globe reporting helped kick off similar discoveries in the U.S. and around the world.

On Monday Bradlee will speak at 7 p.m. at Colby’s Lorimer Chapel on the film, journalism and the sexual abuse scandal. The talk is open to the public. A free screening of “Spotlight” is also planned for 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the Lovejoy building at Colby.

The talk and film screening are part of a series sponsored by Colby’s Oak Institute for Human Rights, Reclaiming Sex, which focuses on sexual violence and sexual abuse as human rights offenses.

Bradlee said the film is an accurate portrayal of the Globe’s investigation, and he hopes it will also change people’s perceptions of journalism.


“Too often I think reporters are portrayed in film as a bunch of jackals following politicians around and screaming questions, so it’s nice to have us portrayed in a good way I think,” said Bradlee, 67, of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in an interview Thursday. “More importantly I think the film underscores the need for good investigative journalism at a time when that has been cut back around the country.”

Bradlee’s experience parallels that of his father, Ben Bradlee, who was executive editor at The Washington Post in 1972 when reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncovered what would become the Watergate scandal, which eventually led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon. The Post’s effort was portrayed in the 1976 movie “All the President’s Men,” which won four Oscars, including one for Jason Robards, who played Bradlee, as best supporting actor. Bradlee died in 2014.

Maeve Dolan, a junior at Colby and member of the institute’s student panel, invited Bradlee to be the keynote speaker for the Reclaiming Sex series, said Walter Hatch, director of the Oak Institute for Human Rights at Colby.

“Human rights violations happen all around the world, including places like college campuses and churches in Boston,” Hatch said. “I think that’s why the students wanted to have him come be the keynote speaker for this series of events.”

Bradlee, who is portrayed by actor John Slattery in “Spotlight,” said the actors and directors worked closely with Globe journalists in making the film.

“They took our suggestions and it was very collaborative,” he said. “The actors were fantastic, very involved with the project. They were really into it.”


Bradlee is not the only connection Waterville has to the Academy Award-winning film. Waterville native David Mizner, an associate producer of “Spotlight,” originally pitched the idea of the film to producers Nicole Rocklin and Blye Faust.

At first Bradlee was skeptical that the film would be made and hesitant that the story would be glamorized.

“We wanted them to be as faithful as possible to the original story and it was a bit risky in that sense, but we felt reassured when (screenwriters Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy) started interviewing us,” Bradlee said. “It’s very accurate. They took some dramatic license, as all movies do — it’s not a documentary. But overall it’s extremely accurate and faithful to what we did.”

The film, which also stars Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton and Rachel McAdams, won Academy Awards for best picture and best original screenplay in February. Bradlee, who was at the ceremony, said he was surprised at the film’s success.

“I think everyone was expecting ‘The Revenant’ to get best picture,” he said. “It got best actor and director, and then we thought here it comes for best picture, but they said ‘Spotlight’ and we hit the roof.”

“Spotlight” will be screened at 8:30 p.m. Sunday in the Lovejoy 100 lecture hall at Colby. Bradlee will speak at 7 p.m. Monday in Lorimer Chapel.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.