What ‘Spotlight’ got right: Newsroom cake

The fidelity is in the frosting.

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I’ve yet to meet a reporter who didn’t adore “Spotlight.” This year’s Academy Award winner for best picture is a love letter to journalism.

It’s also a newsroom time capsule, with superb acting and accurate sets that perfectly portray what newspaper life is like: The rumpled reporters, the tedious telephone interviews, the messy desks.

I thought it would be fun to chronicle the ways the movie mirrors my daily life, starting with the obvious one. The thing almost every reporter comments on when they talk about this film is the newsroom cake.

From the very first newsroom scene, the script gets¬† it right. It’s as if the writers thought, “How could we convey that what we’ve filmed is an authentic recreation of this story?” Like a secret knock or fraternity handshake, one thing alone gains you access in newspaper culture. And the password is frosted.

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In “Spotlight,” we first meet the reporters and editors when they gather in the middle of the Boston Globe newsroom for a retirement party. There are awkward speeches, a bit of forced laughter,¬† some real sentiment, and cake. Lots and lots of cake:

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Newsroom cake is a very big deal. When one appears in my newsroom — in the conference room or on the table that also houses the fax machine (how quaint) — reporters I haven’t seen in weeks scurry from their hidey-holes. For a moment at least, we interact as humans: sugar-fiending, carb-loading, free-food-loving, honest-to-gosh near-normals.

Newsroom cake is such a universally recognized symbol of coworker camaraderie that missing out might be worse than missing a deadline. Someone at the St.Louis Post-Dispatch even started a Twitter feed to alert others whenever a sheet of pure deliciousness appears in the newsroom. It may be my favorite use of social media ever.

Consider this cunning confectionery creation:

Or this setting-off-into-the-sunset sensation:

But you don’t have to take Hollywood or Twitter’s word. A quick scroll through my own iPhone photo albums came up with a numerous newsroom cakes that I’ve personally helped devour.

Like this clever cake to welcome back two injured copy editors who fell on icy sidewalks:


Or this last piece of face cake to celebrate a photographer’s retirement:


And this pun perfected on sheet cake to mark an editor’s 30th work anniversary:


There’s a reason “Spotlight” started off its newsroom scene with a big slab of iced goodness, and it’s the same reason I saved several years worth of cake photos on my phone. Like I said, newsroom cake is a very big deal.

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