Times foreign affairs editor speaks at STJ

Kirk Kraeutler, assistant foreign editor at the New York Times, spoke to students Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Bent Hall about the his experience covering Afghanistan, Pakistan, and South Asia.

Over the past decade, Kraeutler has had several bylines in the travel section of the Times. He now coordinates a team of correspondents abroad that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their work.

Cindy Grossman, director of Student Information and Services at St. John’s, opened the lecture with a summary of what Kraeutler and other speakers bring to the University.

“The lecture series features many speakers with an expertise in foreign affairs,” Grossman said.

“Part of our strategic goal, as a University, is that you get a global education.”

Kraeutler began speaking about the important role of the student in media consumption.

“We’re living in one of the most tumultuous periods of media upheaval,” Kraeutler said.

“Every waking moment of everyday a battle is waged-everyone wants your attention and not all the information they want to give you is good and valuable.”

According to Kraeutler, the average American between the ages of 8 and 18 spends about 7 and a half hours plugged into some sort of technology or media outlet.

“In the midst of all this chatter, the news media wants your attention,” Kraeutler said.

After he spoke about the modern consumption of media in comparison to newspaper, Kraeutler shared
his first-hand experience with the war in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to Kraeutler, in 2007-2008 when things in Pakistan and Afghanistan were unraveling, the coverage of events in Afghanistan amounted to 1 percent of news.

Kraeutler cited expense, danger and complication as the reasons for this low statistic.

“It’s dangerous, and security costs money,” Kraeutler said. “It’s also difficult for the public to follow because there are no clear lines there. The New York Times has made a commitment to coverage of these areas, though.”

After a short movie produced by the Times about Pakistani girls’ dwindling accessibility to educational opportunities, Kraeutler spent the final 20 minutes of the lecture taking questions from students.

When asked to give advice to prospective journalism majors, Kraeutler responded by emphasizing objectivity.

“In a world this messy and this dangerous and complicated, good information is important, and this information is hard to come by,” Kraeutler said.

“With things like Twitter, distrust the information – don’t dismiss it, but balance it, challenge it. Set aside time for the things that are complicated and that you don’t understand.”

“It’s also always good to have one area that you know, one area of expertise,” Kraeutler said.

“Bring to the craft something other than just the practice of journalism.”

Senior Mario Vergara commented on his motivation for attending the lecture series.

“I came because I was interested in international reporting and hearing about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Vergara said.

“It really opened my eyes. I didn’t realize that journalists there were at such a risk.”

While encouraging the students to read newspapers scrupulously and to stay informed, Kraeutler left the audience with a piece of advice.

“Every once in a while, look up,” Kraeutler said. “You might be missing the things in life while you think you’re enhancing it.”