Co-authored by Alyssa Pilecki ’20 and Emma Levinbook ’22
“Being a reporter is such a blessing, and some of it is serendipity,” New York Times investigative journalist Mark Mazzetti said. “I love getting to travel and meet new people, learning about and experiencing different cultures. At the end of the day, I feel so lucky that I get to do what I do.”
We sat down with Mr. Mazzetti during his recent visit to campus. A long-time friend of history teacher Andrew Krugman, Mr. Mazzetti detailed his passion for reporting politics and foreign affairs. Mr. Mazetti was invited to KO to speak to the entire student body, faculty, and staff in an assembly on Monday, Oct. 17, sharing his perspective on the field of journalism and the work he has done as a professional reporter.
Mr. Mazzetti detailed what it takes to be a reputable journalist and underscored the importance of staying as open-minded and neutral as possible while reporting. “I think that being a good reporter means that you are capable of being open-minded and that you can be convinced that the facts can and will change during the process,” he said.
Mr. Mazzetti also advised the student body to maintain the same mindset when reading and discussing the news. “For all the middle and high schoolers that are consuming news and thinking they only have certain viewpoints, I would just encourage them to try to remain as open-minded as possible, as well.”
After delivering his speech, Mr. Mazzetti also spoke on stage with senior Editor-in-Chief Jaden DiMauro, who asked more detailed questions pertaining to Mr. Mazzetti’s experiences with the New York Times and certain works that he has written or greatly contributed to. These included his book, “The Way of the Knife,” as well as two Pulitzer Prize-winning articles, the first of which discussed Washington’s response to the violence in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. His most recent award-winning article focused on the connections between Trump’s advisors and Russia.
Mr. Mazzetti also delved into the impact that technology and the media, especially social media, have today in spreading news easily and quickly and allowing individuals to gain access to articles online, rather than through just a physical copy of the newspaper. Furthermore, Mr. Mazzetti recognized that social media enables stories to be read by a much larger audience, and although this can be advantageous, he also said that the downside is the leveling of all the information that is available; some people don’t distinguish the credibility of one article from another or from where their information is sourced.
“People should be conscious that the New York Times puts a lot of care and thought into all the articles that are published,” he said. “Rather than being consumed with social media or what is said on Twitter, people should go out and talk to each other.” Mr. Mazzetti said he believes that this way, the news is less likely to be deemed as “fake” and instead taken more seriously, as it should be. Mr. Mazzetti said he felt that it was beneficial for students to hear the perspective of a professional reporter and that he appreciated having the opportunity to speak in front of such a young audience.
“I think it’s great to interact with a group of students who are living through a tumultuous time,” Mr. Mazzetti said.“I have spoken to my high school and several colleges, but I haven’t spoken in this type of setting before. I’ve never been asked a question by a sixth grader.”
Mr. Mazzetti said that he was excited to speak to KO, with the hope that through his words, more people would see firsthand who actually does the work for the New York Times and better understand the credibility of the news they read in the future. In order to establish such credibility, Mr. Mazzetti said he believes it is crucial for a journalist to work with colleagues in order to get the most accurate version of the truth as possible. For example, with his recent article on Attorney General William Barr’s trip to Italy, Mr. Mazzetti explained that he was able to craft an accurate piece of writing due to sharing information with his associates, being collaborative, and always staying open to uncovering hidden truths.
Occasionally, Mr. Mazzetti said that some articles never reach a conclusion, as they can only be based on information that is received, not on personal beliefs. “Sometimes the process of writing is slow going, and it’s frustrating for readers when they don’t know the full answer to the story,” he said. One of the most challenging articles Mr. Mazzetti said he has written was a recent piece covering the relationship between the US, Iran, and Israel over the last 10 years. “My colleague and I worked on boiling down 30,000 words of notes we collected into an 11,000-word story. It was challenging, but I’m glad I took it on,” he said.
According to Mr. Mazzetti, reporting takes up the majority of his time and effort, consuming much of his life. “To a degree, I tend to find myself always on call as a journalist. I am always waiting for new information and dealing with reactions to prior articles,” he said. Having written a vast number of articles for the New York Times since 2006, Mr. Mazzetti said that his experience has been remarkable and he is grateful for all the opportunities he has had in delivering the news to people all across the country and the world. Mr. Mazzetti said he enjoys writing about the government, traveling, and art.
While it may seem unusual for a journalist to report on such a wide array of subjects, he said that he believes that all journalists and reporters should step out of their comfort zones in order to broaden their knowledge and skill set. Mr. Mazzetti also dove into the world of book writing when he took on the project “The Way of the Knife” in 2014, an inside look at the secret dealings between the CIA and the Pentagon since the 9/11 attacks. In his book, Mr. Mazzetti revealed more in-depth information about an important, yet largely unrecognized, phenomenon and touched upon the secret wars the US has been carrying out with a strong reliance on the CIA.
While Mr. Mazzetti has had decades of article writing under his belt to help him with his investigating and reporting, he said that writing a book was totally different than writing an article. “The book had a big deadline far into the future, so at any given point, I felt like I had to be working on it,” he said. “It was just really stressful, but the positive response and the questions and curiosity raised made writing the book worth it.”
Although he hopes to write another book in the future, Mr. Mazzetti said he is waiting for the perfect idea to arise before he starts on this venture again.What he does know as of recent is that the next book will likely be another nonfiction work. The Kingswood Oxford community greatly appreciates Mr. Mazzetti’s valuable insight into the world of journalism and reporting. We look forward to reading his future articles as well as applying the advice he gave us in our own understanding and perception of the news.