The development blogosphere is all abuzz.
Once again, Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, has written about Africa.
While the usual ballyhoo about Kristof among the development twitterati is that he almost exclusively paints a bleak portrait of Africa-the-Dark-Continent whenever he writes about Africa, this time the development blogosphere is seemingly atwitter because Kristof wrote a column that can be summarized as follows: “Africa is rising.”
Although there was some discussion of Kristof’s column in the social media since Saturday when it was posted, the current brouhaha seems to have started when someone tweeted the following yesterday:
“In which @NickKristof wakes to the idea that Africa is Rising. Hey Nick, I’ve been writing that line for 5 years now.”
But don’t take my word for it. Go read the excellent summary of the hubbub written by Tom Murphy.
Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game
I don’t really have a dog in Development Blogosphere v. Nicholas D. Kristof, except to say that I just want reporting from Africa to be accurate.
There’s civil conflict somewhere? Report it accurately.
Thousands of people have escaped poverty? Report it accurately.
A dictator is living like Caligula while hundreds of thousands of his people cannot eat three meals a day? Report it accurately.
Life expectancy has unexpectedly and inexplicably improved? Report it accurately.
I am not a Kristof fanboi. In fact, I thought Kristof’s live-tweeting of a police raid on a Cambodian brothel he had been invited to join in on was in poor taste, and I find the “White Savior” persona — in Kristof or anyone else – off-putting. (UPDATE: I also thought his criticizing a poor Malawian for smoking, drinking, and visiting prostitutes in this column to be beyond patronizing.)
But I also think the Kristof bashing is unjustified. Instead of criticizing Kristof for his writing, criticize those who enable it.
The New York Times is in the business of selling newspapers. Space in the New York Times‘ editorial pages comes at a premium. Don’t think for a second that the New York Times would publish Kristof’s columns in its editorial pages if they didn’t correspond exactly to what the New York Times‘ readership wants from a foreign correspondent.
These controversies surrounding Nick Kristof remind me of when my folks rant about oil companies raising gas prices before the start of a long weekend. I never fail to remind them that if they’re seeing such high prices, it’s because other consumers are willing to pay such high prices.
If the New York Times has someone like Kristof writing in its editorial pages, it’s because there is a demand for it among the wealthy, educated, liberal readership of the New York Times. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Or, to channel my inner Last Psychiatrist: “If you’re watching, it’s for you.”
Let’s stop treating the symptom and start treating the disease, and let’s focus on educating the readers of the New York Times — by blogging, writing op-eds, teaching students etc. in ways that paint an accurate portrait of Africa — rather than on relatively less productive Kristof bashing.