Q&A with Nicholas Kristof

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The Daily Texan: On social media such as Facebook and Twitter, you’re actively engaging with your readers. How does that change the way you practice journalism?

Nicholas Kristof: I’m not sure it makes the reporting part of what I do that different. But in journalism, I’d say it’s really more of a way to get young people in particular to pay attention to issues that I care about.

DT: How do you report international and domestic issues differently, and how do you decide what’s important to people here in the United States?

Kristof: I do care a lot about international and human rights issues, but I also know that if every column I wrote was about those issues, then my poor readers would just tune out. So it does require some balance between issues that are off the agenda but are important and issues that are already on the agenda.

DT: You’ve done a significant amount of research on human trafficking and human rights in general. How did that get started?

Kristof: It started, really, with me reporting in Cambodia. It just kind of blew me away what I saw, and then as I reported on trafficking internationally, it became clear to me that we didn’t really have the moral authority to tell other countries to clean up their act unless we did a better job ourselves [in the U.S.].

DT: What do you see in the future of human trafficking injustice, both domestically and abroad?

Kristoff: I think there is a certain amount of progress on both fronts. Other countries are being named and shamed into trying to do their job, and I think domestically prosecutors are trying to go after the pimps and johns more and that really changes the dynamic.

DT: How do you make sure your reporting is accurate when you’re interviewing people about events that occurred while you weren’t in their country?

Kristoff: You want to be really sure that you’re getting the true backstory, and people do really have a tendency to exaggerate. Good people exaggerate as well as bad people, and so as much as possible verify with other people and just get a sense that it’s really credible.

DT: As student journalists, what can we do that professionals can’t?

Kristof: It’s the way you can make a difference. There’s a difficult trade-off in that you want to make a difference overall, but a lot of what you end up doing is just slogging and reporting things that don’t particularly affect social justice or anything like that, but it’s news.