Kraft talks journalism

Scott Kraft — currently a senior editor and roving correspondent for the Los Angeles Times — is a man of words. For him, journalism is more about storytelling and less about reporting.

“Stories have unbelievable life,” Kraft said Monday at a Silliman College Master’s Tea sponsored by the Poynter Fellowship at Yale. “It’s never been more fun to be a reporter than nowadays.”

Scott Kraft, L.A. Times senior editor, roving correspondent and father of Kate Kraft ’10, speaks in Silliman College.
Grace Patuwo
Scott Kraft, L.A. Times senior editor, roving correspondent and father of Kate Kraft ’10, speaks in Silliman College.

Kraft began his talk by discussing the future of journalism. Before an audience of about 35, he discussed the impact of new forms of journalism on the relationship between the press and the public.

The media is in a unique situation as new means of information are being provided to readers, Kraft said. While storytelling remains the same, the role of technology can complicate the old journalism business model, he explained.

A self-proclaimed “journalistic geek,” Kraft expressed his love for the spirit of inquiry. He always wanted to be a journalist, he said, and by the time he was in fourth grade, he had started his own newspaper and single-handedly managed deliveries and ad revenues.

Since then, Kraft’s career at the L.A. Times has blossomed from childhood endeavor to journalistic prowess. As a national and foreign correspondent, and later on as an editor, Kraft has covered several notable news stories, including the release of former South African President Nelson Mandela, 9/11, the war in Angola and Hurricane Katrina. Kraft’s experiences gave him fodder for anecdotes Monday that ranged from an episode with the American mission in Somalia, to his encounter with beer in Africa, to his clash with conservatives regarding President Barack Obama’s foreign policy.

“That was pretty cool,” Kraft said multiple times throughout his retellings.

Before working for the Times, Kraft wrote for the Associated Press, where a story he wrote reconstructing the attempt of a mother to track down her child’s molester was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing in 1985. As national editor of the L.A. Times, Kraft oversaw a staff that won four Pulitzer prizes.

But regardless of his accolades, Kraft said, he is still struck by the world of reporting.

“Being in journalism is quite surreal,” he said.

Still, Kraft said he recognizes that a reporter must believe that what he writes will have a positive impact, he said. And over the course of the tea, he identified several of the most important attributes of a good journalist or storyteller. Reminiscing about being an avid young reader, Kraft said journalists must be intensely curious, must be easily bored so that they are inclined to find something that stimulates them and must enjoy reading. He also described the love-hate relationship between journalists and the craft of writing.

“Is there anything worse than writing, but is there anything better than to have written?,” he joked.

During the question-and-answer session following the talk, Silliman Master Judith Krauss asked Kraft how his career has influenced his family life, a question that his daughter, Kate Kraft ’10, a Silliman student herself, seemed eager to hear him answer. Scott Kraft said living abroad gave his children more international perspective.

At the tea’s close, Krauss said she was very pleased with Kraft’s two-hour presentation, calling him “one good storyteller.” The six students interviewed, many of whom are friends with Kraft’s daughter, all agreed that Kraft gave an engaging talk. His inspiration resonated with Kate Hawkins ’10, who said the talk made her more interested in journalism than she thought she was.

Kraft himself said he admired the Master’s Tea tradition at Yale.

“I have never done this before,” he said. ”It makes me want to be a student all over again.”

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