NYT's Kristof: Investing in Journalism Crucial to Good Governance

Nov 132013
  • In his keynote address at the ICFJ Awards Dinner, Nicholas D. Kristof said that healthy, democratic governments aren’t complete without a strong, free press corps.

New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof said empowering overseas journalists is vital to building strong civil society, in a keynote address at the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) Awards Dinner.

“The reason that ICFJ and local news organizations are so important isn’t just because of solidarity with fellow journalists” but because fostering quality journalism “is the most cost-effective and reliable way to bring a measure of civil society and accountability to countries that desperately need it,” he said.

Over time, Kristof said, he has come to realize that healthy, democratic governments aren’t complete without a strong, free press corps. It isn’t enough to encourage political elections, he said.

“Elections are part of the answer, but they’re not as reliable a toolbox as we may like,” he said. “The toolbox that we haven’t relied enough on is the role of journalists.”

Just funding a website or a radio program--small investments--can reduce corruption by tenfold in societies without stable governments, he said. “It’s a powerful leverage that we have to support transformation.”

“One of the most important things we can do, and one of the things ICFJ does, is support some of these extraordinary journalists around the world who…are in the spotlight business, having a huge impact on providing accountability” in countries despite their huge personal risks.

At the gala, he lauded Knight International Journalism Award winners Umar Cheema and Roman Anin for working in such dangerous conditions. “When the lights go down, they’re going to go back to their countries and continue this incredibly brave reporting.”

“I hope support for that kind of courageous journalism won’t be a one-day event for all of us, but will be something we carry through day-by-day,” he said. “I salute ICFJ for doing that.”