By: Dave Astor
Nicholas Kristof, who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary partly because of his columns about Darfur, hopes the award puts a brighter spotlight on the genocide in that Sudanese region.
“I don’t think the Pulitzer board was necessarily sending a message, but the prize may have the effect of bringing a little more attention to Darfur,” The New York Times columnist told E&P Monday evening.
More attention from governments is welcome, of course, but Kristof would also like to see the media focus more on Darfur.
“Nick has done just amazing, path-breaking stuff,” Times Editorial Page Editor Gail Collins told E&P, citing his columns about Darfur, third-world women, and more. “His work is both dangerous to himself and of enormous service to the people he writes about.”
Kristof, 46, has made a widely publicized challenge for Fox News host Bill O’Reilly to visit Darfur, and the columnist said “my offer to him still stands,” post-Pulitzer.
“When I picked on him, there was an element of goading him,” Kristof said of O’Reilly, who also writes a column for Creators Syndicate. “But I was serious, too.” He noted that a conservative commentator (such as O’Reilly) visiting Darfur “would draw tremendous attention” to the genocide and perhaps move the White House to take the crisis more seriously.
Kristof is also drawing attention to the developing world with his contest to find a college student to accompany him on a reporting trip. The columnist — who travels about once a month but was at the Times for Monday’s Pulitzer celebration — told E&P that about 1,500 people have applied as the April 20 deadline nears.
While Kristof’s Darfur coverage was a major reason why he won the Pulitzer, his columns about other “marginalized places” in the world may have also been a factor.
Did Kristof’s Pulitzer entry include online content, as was the case with several other entries this year? “I did a lot of online stuff for the Times, but I’m not sure if it was submitted,” he replied.
Whether columnists are read online or in print, Kristof said they don’t have as much clout as some people think. “It surprised me that Op-Ed columns have less persuasive power than I thought to change people’s minds about issues they’re already familiar with,” he said. “But columns do have a significant ability to put [less-publicized] issues on the agenda.”
Kristof began his Times column in 2001, and was named a Pulitzer finalist in 2004 and 2005. Did he think 2006 would finally be his year? “I really had no clue,” he said.
The New York Times News Service-syndicated writer did say he was pleased that several of this year’s Pulitzers went to journalistic work that was a “bit edgy,” such as his column and the Times’ revelations about governmental wiretapping.