One Experience | Teen Ink

One Experience MAG

May 10, 2010
By AliciaH SILVER, Bronx, New York
AliciaH SILVER, Bronx, New York
7 articles 0 photos 11 comments

My first reaction to the voicemail was annoyance. I’d been sick for a week, and I had fallen behind on schoolwork, ­debate team assignments, and college application essays. Then, as soon as I turned on my cell phone, there was a message waiting – yet another thing to deal with.

When I discovered, however, that the “thing” was an invitation to interview Nicholas Kristof for Teen Ink, my irritation vanished completely. What an opportunity! I’d already been an enthusiastic (if, admittedly, irregular) reader of his op-ed column in the New York Times, and I’d been looking forward to reading Half the Sky since an excerpt had been published in the New York Times Magazine last summer. My excitement was tinged with nervousness, though, especially after I went online and read up on his epic achievements. Still, I was fascinated by Mr. Kristof’s humanitarian and journalistic career, and I was very much looking forward to meeting him.

Although I am a native New Yorker, I’d never been to the Times building. I found the spare, modern design attractive, and the cafeteria had very good food. But my favorite aspect of the building was the sheer number of books piled and shelved around Mr. Kristof’s office. Even though I know a single computer could hold all that information and more, seeing the books was a tangible reminder of the incredible volume of information and analysis that goes into writing newspaper articles.

After a few hours of preparing for the interview with Eliza and Teen Ink’s publisher and editor, John and Stephanie Meyer, I felt ready – but I was very relieved to be sharing the interview with Eliza, both because she was very friendly, and because the idea of having a partner seemed to calm the butterflies in my stomach.

I shouldn’t have been so nervous. As Mr. Kristof welcomed us into his office, he was gracious and personable, and throughout the meeting he seemed genuinely interested in speaking with us. We got to ask all our questions, and he responded thoughtfully and articulately to each one. In retrospect, I think it would have been better if I’d spent less time reading directly from the cards, but nevertheless, as the interview progressed, it felt less like a volley of questions and answers and more like a normal conversation.

I loved hearing what Mr. Kristof had to say. Some responses, such as his point about the effectiveness and inexpensiveness of iodine pills, I recognized from his earlier writings. Others, such as the possible negative consequences of highlighting the ­turmoil in Africa, surprised me and made me think. And there were a few responses that made me laugh. I honestly enjoyed every moment.

Another benefit of this project was the behind-the-scenes look I got at how the video of the interview was made. During the interview itself, the filmmaker taped only Mr. Kristof. Afterward, he filmed Eliza and me asking our questions again and making various responsive faces and sounds.

At the end of the day, I had learned a lot. I am definitely going to have to work on my persuasion skills, because having learned so much from Mr. Kristof, I really want to convince my parents to let me volunteer abroad. I also discovered how great it feels to have conducted a successful interview.

Overall, it was an amazing experience, so thank you, Mr. Kristof, for giving us your time, and thank you, Teen Ink, for giving me this wonderful opportunity – in spite of how long it took for me to respond to your initial phone call.

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