Nicholas Kristof admits in his op-ed today:
Readers have sometimes complained that my win-a-trip journeys focus on the wretchedness of the developing world — warlords, malnourished children, maternal mortality. Frankly, I’ve always thought these critics had a point. So Mitch and I are starting this trip by covering an African triumph: Gabon’s bold steps to preserve its natural heritage.
Unfortunately, he does not help himself out much because rather than open with the above, he starts with this:
The moment I fell in love with Gabon was when my companions and I walked along the beach at sunset: an endless strip of white sand with no one in sight as far as the eye could see in any direction. Then we spotted movement, and we realized we were sharing the beach after all.
With three elephants.
I am not as hyper critical as some of the description of the surroundings when traveling. It would be unfair being that I was enamored by the escarpment that ran along the edge of Malava and continued down a bit past Kakamega. I was also taken by the exotic birds and animals that surrounded me. With that said, I was and still am not (yet?) writing a consistent article for the New York Times. I also did not pretend as if I was writing anything more than my personal observations.
Kristoff on the other hand, uses an article that is supposed to praise Gabon and uses it to discuss the beach, elephants and gorillas. Missing from his piece are the Gabonese (is that the right use?). I am happy that he has recognized the need to show that the continent of Africa is not filled with rape and murder, but the focus has to be on the accomplishments of the people. Why not talk about the reception of the communities that are affected by the national parks? Or how about talk about the other accomplishments of a country that you are claiming to be a success story that involves interviewing natives?
Overall, I would be lying to say that I was not happy that Mr. Kristof is aware and trying to work with his critics. However, he can still do better.