Nick Kristof and George Clooney on malaria

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof is taking questions from readers on malaria with actor George Clooney while simultaneously criticizing the media for being too celebrity-focused. Says Kristof:

We in the news media aren’t always very good at covering issues of global disease like malaria, which kills about 850,000 people every year (about one every 38 seconds). But we’re amazingly proficient at covering celebrities.

But then Kristof (or should it be Hypocristof?) simply wheels on his heels and engages in this same media proclivity he criticizes. He even has a photo of him and Clooney waving (and oddly, wearing sort of matching outfits) while hanging out together in Chad.

Yeah, you can argue — as Kristof does — that he’s making the best of our tendency to ignore stories about malaria and focus on celebrity.

But is the solution to simply pander to this distorted focus? Are two celebrities (Kristof is really as much a celebrity these days as he is a journalist) who happened to get malaria really the best to be fielding questions on malaria?

I’d really like to know if this kind of thing helps or hurts. Thoughts? I’m not sure, and I actually think Clooney did help draw attention to Sudan’s referendum, but I also know hypocrisy when I see it.

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Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at]humanosphere.org or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.