On Monday Oct. 7, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mark Mazzetti spoke to KO students at assembly after an open session with students taking AP Political Science and journalism. Mr. Mazzetti, who currently writes for the New York Times, was awarded the Pulitzer for his articles about American responses to the crises in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
The assembly opened with the trailer to “The Fourth Estate,” a documentary series about the New York Times’s coverage of the White House. Mr. Mazzetti continued by discussing the term “fake news” and how its use impacts his career as a journalist. He spoke about the use of the term“fake news” to refer to reputable newspapers as being “lazy, cheap, and potentially dangerous,” the danger being how it impacts society’s views on the media. “What I’m worried about is if enough people start believing that what we do is fake,” he said.
Mr. Mazzetti went on to stress that good journalism is factually based, not “involved in partisan bickering.” His emphasis on objectivity also lead into his similar advice for high schoolers. He explained that while middle and high school students may feel passionately one way, it is equally important to consider other viewpoints. “Remain as open-minded as possible,” he said. He later added that in journalism especially, you have to be open to being convinced.
Senior and KO News Editor-in-Chief Jaden DiMauro interviewed Mr. Mazzetti on stage. “I really enjoyed getting to research him and do a deep dive into all of his work that he’s done over his career,” he said. Jaden’s questions ranged from his beginnings as a journalist to some of the most dangerous places his career has brought him.
The end of the assembly was open to students and faculty to ask Mr. Mazzetti their own questions. There were questions about dealing with sensitive information, the balance of power in Washington, and how journalists draw the line between scrutiny and their own opinions.
Middle School history teacher Andy Krugman and longtime friend of Mr. Mazzetti worked to bring him to KO. “I just felt as if here’s a guy who has spent time in the Middle East, he’s covered the drone wars, and he’s covering the White House. He’s had these cool experiences,” he said. “We are in a very polarized environment with Trump, so I thought whatever he talks about is going to be relevant to kids.” Mr. Krugman also said he thought having somebody as reputable as Mr. Mazzetti was good for students. “If people like him are trying to report the news and be honest ethical journalists, then that’s a very good thing,” he said.
Many KO students agreed that it was enjoyable having somebody so accomplished speak. “I thought it was interesting to see a different perspective on the news,” freshman Eve Repp said. However, others felt it was too politically polarized. “I thought it was very biased and trying to indoctrinate our students with a certain ideology,” junior Chaitanya Karanam said. Others enjoyed it but felt it wasn’t necessary for the entire school. “I think if it was for the KO News or journalism students it would’ve had a greater impact,” junior Geethika Chandragiri said.
In all, the goal of the assembly was to get students to think critically about the media and its impact on them. “I hope it made people think a little bit more about how they consume news. I think that was a main point of his talk,” Jaden said. “I also hope that it inspired some people to take up an interest in journalism if they haven’t already.”