Advice from a NYT pro

Editor’s note: This actually happened.

Stories From a Drifter: What advice do you have for journalists who are struggling with declining readership, newsroom staff cuts, low pay and stagnant wages?

Nicholas Kristof: I think the business model issue is the big problem. And I don’t think there’s going to be a good solution to that. I think philanthropy may help in some places. Uhh, but, I think a lot of journalism is — especially local journalism — is going to be really kind of screwed for years to come until we find some kind of better business model. And, so, you know, for the individuals, I don’t have a great answer other than try to develop the skill sets that people are moving toward, you know, with multimedia, and this kind of thing, because it makes one more marketable. And the skill set is — even if one ends up doing something else — the skill set in journalism is incredibly useful I think in anything else but it’s going to be, it is rough times and it will continue to be rough times in journalism.

SD: Any advice for someone who wants to start being, like, some sort of foreign correspondent out there in the world?

NK: Umm, you know, one option is work for an English language paper in, like in Hong Kong, there is the South China Morning Post, or in Bangkok, the Bangkok Post, or wherever it may be. Those papers will often be willing to hire an American native English speaker who’s got journalism experience and it may not be, it may not pay great, but the cost of living is usually pretty low and it could be a great experience in a different country so that might be something to think about.

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The Simulation

KF: So lemme get this straight. A bunch of heavily-armed men killed 30 civilians with drones and one of their own men died and the TV networks are playing sappy music and showing the dead man’s face as they go to commercial. You don’t see the problem with that?

JT: Are you saying you don’t care about the troops? One of our men died out there in the desert.

KF: Yeah, so did 30 people who weren’t involved with whatever was going on. I thought all lives matter?

JT: Yeah, but they’re different, they’re used to this stuff. They don’t know any better.

KF: All I’m saying is, take a look at this from a neutral point of view and think about who are the terrorists.

JT: Dude, Americans aren’t terrorists. We don’t believe in that. Everything we do is because we want to help these countries. We just believe in freedom.

KF: Name the two biggest terrorists organizations.

JT: Al Qaeda and ISIS.

KF: How about Israel and the United States? They are like a couple of terrorist bullies who do whatever they want. But the people who are in power can call it whatever they like. They are just spreading freedom or trying to protect our interests — they call it defense.

JT: Man, you better watch out you know they might see this, right?

KF: I type everything I write in Google Docs. They are always watching. They know where my cursor is right now. They are probably watching me through my webcam, too. Whatever, call me a voyeur.

JT: You’re typing right now? I thought we were talking face-to-face.

KF: Hey, you can think whatever you want. I know what I’m doing.

JT: Fuck, I’m becoming too aware I can’t last much longer.

KF: I thought that might happen. Well, maybe I’ll see you next week. I’ll still be here.

Illusions

I wish we didnt have so many screens. Or any screens. I think its making everyone depressed. Or maybe its just me. I want to go back to the forest. To sleep under the pines and feel the wind pass over my face. Now its all walls and ceilings. They are meant to keep us in. To separate civility from chaos. It makes us forget what we are. Be wary of the illusion. The ducks play in the water all day because they can.

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The Fall

In shivasana, I fall.

I don’t have a parachute and I don’t care.

My eyes are closed and my lips are smiling.

I fall through dimensions and I’m no longer a newspaper reporter and I don’t have to think about what I am covering tomorrow or who I am interviewing.

There is only the fall.

The others are falling too. Into their mats. We fall together in formation.

She walks among us. In her bare feet on the wooden floor.

She helps us fall. I can hear her step behind my head. Her hands press into my shoulders and I fall faster and I smile wider and I breathe deep and my bladder is near my eye.

The only god I worship is my yoga instructor.

In shivasana, I fall.

 

How can I fall today? How can I fall now?

I come straight from the city council meeting. My fake life is too vivid, too real, too fresh. It still occupies my head. How am I supposed to explain everything? There are experts on everything and I know nothing. All I know how to do is ask questions. There is just too much too much history that I walked in on too much I don’t know and I am supposed to be the gate keeper I have a duty a responsibility. All of my sources are sitting here all the people I quote and someone says my story wasn’t very clear but I did my best I can’t explain everything. Life is complicated.

I’m trying to fall. But I can’t connect. Can someone turn me off and then turn me back on again?

There is too much information to sift through and my head hurts.

My physical body fees rejuvenated. My legs are relaxed my shoulders are down but my head was left behind. Someone grab it for me. Screw it back on.

In shivasana, I am supposed to fall.

Why can’t I fall tonight?

Corn

Two-hundred-and-fifty-three miles to Des Moines.

It’s five AM and it’s dark and cold. I’m sipping burnt instant coffee out of the mug they gave away freshman year and eating porridge with tropical fruit trail mix out of the aluminum bowl I got a thrift store in New Zealand. I’m listening to a story on public radio about refuge children who went missing in Europe.

Please stop telling me how many miles to Des Moines. You just told me ten miles ago and that city means nothing to me. It is just a reminder that I’m still in Trump country and I still have a long, long way to go. It’s too early to be thinking about Des Moines.

An Irish immigration expert is talking about something but all I hear is her accent. She is from Dublin so she doesn’t talk like you. And then she says one word and I start to time travel.

“Stuck.”

I can imagine you saying that word exactly how the woman on the radio says it.

Maybe it was when we were cooking mushrooms, brown rice and lentils by the river and our family of mischievous ducks wouldn’t stop trying to steal our food.

Or maybe it was when walked through the forest with big bottles of beer and made up stories about the lives of trees and you told me all the things you never told anyone else.

No, it was when the status of our relationship was determined by the texture of peanut butter and the variety of jam in my sandwich.

It’s before dawn and I barely got any sleep and I’m idealizing women from my past again.

Ninety-eight miles to Des Moines and all I can see is corn.