Truth and Consequence

Nicholas Kristof, an op-ed columnist for The New York Times, won his second Pulitzer in 2006 for what the judges called "his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur and that gave voice to the voiceless in other parts of the world." Through a combination of humanitarian commitment, fearless reporting, and sheer doggedness, Kristof has brought the stories of poverty-stricken and exploited people to the morning paper and demanded that we care. Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis interviewed Kristof in January 2007 in Davos, Switzerland.

Jim Wallis: You've identified the big, important moral issues of our time—something few journalists do well. How did you figure it out?

Nicholas Kristof: My journalistic break was covering the Tiananmen Square democracy movement; I was on Tiananmen Square when it was crushed. It was very traumatic for me. We don't know, but probably 500 people were killed.

Over time it also became clear that number-wise it really wasn't such a big deal in the context of all of China. I remember at one point reading that every year in rural China, 3,000 people die in floods and that 700,000 young women and girls are kidnapped and sold. Gradually I began to grope for some way to cover these issues that affect a lot of people but that don't fit into our paradigm of government repression.

Wallis: Those stories didn't make the news.

Kristof: No. I thought that one of our real failings as journalists in China was not adequately covering the "one child" policy. There was a renewed crackdown when I lived in Beijing, and probably no government policy in the world affected more people in a more intimate way than that crackdown against families. It took us a few years to notice because it happened in rural China—we were paying much too much attention to what was going on in the center.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2007
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