Nicholas Kristof – the “Reporter’s Reporter” Speaks at the U



On Tuesday, February 28, famed journalist Nicholas Kristof spoke at the Carlson Family Stage in Northrop Auditorium. The event, titled “Reporting Sex Trafficking, Genocide, and Other Truths of the World” was hosted as part of the Guy Stanton Ford Memorial Lecture series. Kristof was introduced to a nearly full house as “The reporter’s reporter.”

Nicholas Kristof is a famed two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist; he is a regular CNN contributor and has been writing op-eds for the New York Times since November of 2001. One of Kristof’sarticles in the New York Times was about Trump’s alleged ties to the Kremlin, titled “Connecting Trump’s Dots to Russia.” Most of his work emphasizes human rights abuses and he has covered otherwise obscure and often neglected conflicts in the third world, such as the Darfur War, which has occurred since 2003 in Sudan. Kristof has been named an “honorary African” by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

The underlying theme of Kristof’s talk was the harm caused to society by the wasted potential of women. Kristof began the talk by giving an example of harm done to society from a trip he took to central China in 1990 in the poor Dappia Mountains region, where he visited schools. He came across a girl in one of the schools who was an extremely bright student, but whose parents couldn’t afford the 13 dollar annual tuition for her education.

Kristof explained the girl’s situation: “She would stand outside the school gates and the teachers would feel sorry for her because she was the brightest in school.”

She would serve as the poster child for Kristof’s research of the problems women face receiving education in rural China. He wrote about this situation for the times and received numerous letters for the students containing $13. One donor meant to give $100, but the banks made an error so he gave $10,000 instead, instead of charging the donor the extra $9,900, the bank donated the balance to the girls in China. “Those girls were thrilled, for the very first time ones academic prospects in this community were not a function of one’s chromosomes, but of one’s skill.”

Kristof touched the audience with a story of a 13 year old girl from Ethiopia named Mahaduba. This time, he talked about the struggle women in developing countries face regarding reproductive healthcare. Kristof described the story of Mahaduba, a sufferer the childbirth injury known as Obstetric Fistula. The symptoms of Obstetric Fistula include urine and fecal matter exiting the body through the birth canal and the disease will often damage nerves in the woman’s legs, making it impossible for them to walk. “I’ve seen a lot of really grim things in my travels, but there are few things more heart-rending than seeing a teenage girl thatis suffering the stigma of Fistula.” Mahaduba was abandoned by her village because “they thought she had been cursed by God,” and left her to die in a hut just outside the village. She had to fight off hyenas as she crawled 20 miles to an American missionary where she was found close to death on the mission’s door steps. She was later transported to a hospital where and American doctor helped her recover to the point where she could help out at the hospital with small tasks. “The hospital staff realized ‘she is really smart, really capable,’ so they gave her more and more responsibility. So today, Mahaduba is actually a nurse.”

Kristof ended his lecture by telling the audiencethat everyonecan help those less fortunate than us, even if that task might seem impossible to handle on an individual level. “I believe in the drop in the bucket…Drops in the bucket, that is how you fill a bucket!” Kristof explained that each century faces different moral challenges. For example, the challenge of the 19th century was overcoming slavery, and the challenge of the 20th century was overcoming totalitarianism, and now the challenge of the 21st century is creating a more equitable society for women and girls. A Q/A session was held after Kristof’s lecture. One person asked him what he is optimistic about the future despite the fact thathe has seen so much struggle and adverse conditions for people in poverty. He responded by saying, “Reporting has made me optimistic -When you see the worst in humanity, you also see the best.”