Post-presentation, some Ithaca College kids with Kristof
The day after watching a citizen activist transform into a spectacular journalist (in Josh Fox’s Gasland), I saw a presentation by a spectacular journalist who transformed into an activist. Nicholas Kristof, one of the journalistic authorities on the genocide in Darfur and the importance of women’s education around the world, came to speak at Syracuse University

Kristof may not have started as an independent journalist…he worked for The New York Times and was, in fact, the newspaper’s very first blogger. But he is an outstanding example of a journalist who was passionate about a unique, difficult-to-report story and turned that passion into a lifelong, hugely important career that’s resulted in a George Polk Award. Now, Kristof writes books with his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, about female access to education, including Half the SkyChina Wakes and Thunder from the East. Together, the two have won a Pulitizer Prize, making them the first husband-wife duo to win the award.

The speakers introducing Kristof echoed Amy Goodman when she said that Kristof is not content to do simple reporting—that he wants to “give voice to the voiceless” in other parts of the world.

In an example of more direct activism from Kristof, while covering the brothel system in Cambodia, he was so affected by the situation of the girls forced into that institutionalized corruption that he purchased two of the girls and gave them back to their families. His decision was a controversial one, but activist-journalist Kristof justified it without regard for the journalistic, “that’s not objective” bullshit. 

He said, “What we’re dealing with is not just tragedies, but opportunities as well: That you can take people who are squandered assets and turn them into productive, useful assets for their families, their communities, and their countries.”

Kristof gave advice on how to make people care – how to combat “Afghanistanism,” if you will: “If you want to call attention to mass rape,” he said, “it does no good at all to write about the issue on a mass basis; people aren’t interested in 1,000 people being raped. But they can be interested in one person being raped.” That is, find the face of the story, make people care about that face, and inspire them to save that face, which, naturally, will improve the situation of other similarly tragic faces. 

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