When Nicholas D Kristof returned to the New York Times after five months off to write a book, it was such a relief. Although many fine journalists work for that newspaper, his column is the one I always turn to first, and I’d genuinely missed him.
What makes his articles so compelling? Partly, of course, it’s the topics themselves. He tackles a huge range, from the civil war in eastern Congo, to gun control in the US, to how far we’ve come in eradicating certain diseases. But plenty of other writers tackle these topics too, so why am I so hooked on reading Kristof’s take?
The first reason is simply the way he writes: crisp, clear, accessible, engaging. The second is the way he concretises whatever he’s writing about. That may be by using a personal story — effectively, a case study — such as how trachoma surgery transformed the life of a named woman in Mali, when discussing advances in healthcare in developing countries. Or through the use of statistics, such as a comparison between the relatively low number of Americans who die each year from terrorism compared with the much higher number who die from firearms injuries, to support his argument that the US needs to rebalance its focus on those two issues.
There’s never anything flimsy about Kristof’s columns: you know that thorough research has taken place, and that he has developed a credible thesis and drawn valid conclusions.
Being the source of information your audience turns to first or can’t do without — that has to be the aim of any organisation that publishes articles, news stories, blog posts, case studies, white papers or similar. Kristof’s example of best-practice journalism goes a long way to demonstrating how to achieve that.