Monday, July 9, 2007

Sorry Nick Kristof (Kind of)

A while back I lambasted New York Times columist Nick Kristof about the simple nature of his "Win a Trip to Africa" contest (though he has always been my favorite). Having just completed its second year now, the contest brings a student and a teacher along with Nick for a week or two as he travels through neglected regions of Africa. My argument was that in Nick's quest for fresh eyes, he may only find people willing to state the obvious, that many parts of Africa are severely impoverished and that disease is taking its toll, etc. These revelations that Nick's companions would encounter, I was afraid, would lead to overly negative and boring reporting.

After viewing the progress of the trip the second time around as the three of them visited Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and viewing an interview of Mr. Kristof by ABC, I have slightly changed my opinion. I realize that while I still think uninformed perspectives are uninteresting, the idea of bringing a youth along for the ride, as well as an educater with the ability to compare and contrast experiences is what is actually important. I now have come to agree with Nick that if young viewers and readers see the thoughts of young people like them they will take more interest.

This years selection of travelers was quite good. Both fairly young, Leana Wen is a recent grad of Washington University School of Medicine and Will Okun is an English and Photo teacher at an alternative school in Chicago. I found both of their views on their "Two for the Road" blog inciteful and interesting and hopefully others were able to relate to their experiences as well. Leana used her sharp intellect to point out what the serious threats to life and development are in parts of Africa. She also made sure to list possible solutions that everyday people can do to make an impact. Will's ability to compare youth in Africa with those he deals with in Chicago, as well as his great photos made his columns very readable as well.
Win a Trip Videos

ABC's interview of Mr. Kristof was what really allowed me to see where he was conceptually coming from with the "Win a Trip" series. If young people are intested and take a stand, Nick remarked, then their leaders would have no choice but to take notice. With the case of Darfur, there has been an incredible and powerful network of student activists dedicated to bringing an end to the genocide there. Since any meaningful action is still lacking, it must be the fault of our politicians, since the youth has done much to bring attention to the issue. Clearly we are in need of a change of leadership.

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