This April 7 the KO News held the Baird Journalism Dinner in the Upper School Library where KO News editors, writers and faculty convened to share fellowship and to hear remarks from a distinguished journalist. The dinner was established by KO News alumni to honor Warren Baird, who served as the faculty advisor of the Kingswood News and later the KO News from 1967 to 1989.
This year’s speaker, Jon Blitzer ’03, served as the Associate Editor-in-Chief of the KO News, and is now a contributing writer at The New Yorker. He has written for the magazine since 2014, and was a finalist for a 2016 Livingston Award. His writing and reporting have also appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Atavist, Oxford American, and The Nation. Mr. Blitzer graduated from Columbia University and was a Fulbright Scholar.
Blitzer shared that while a student at KO he was not certain about a career path, however, he was always taken with the precision and carefulness of Rob Kyff's words. Kyff was the first working writer that Blitzer ever encountered. Blitzer acknowledged, "It meant the world to me to have his direction." At Columbia University, Blitzer continued to write on music, sports and politics and "reversed engineered" his way into his career. "There's no template or path. It's okay not to know, but be open to the possibilities."
After college, Blitzer moved to Argentina, which he described as a stimulating yet "upending experience." Since one's social networks and contacts are circumscribed by one's environment, Blitzer had no context for understanding the world around him. Writing stories became a way to connect on a deeper level with this new experience. He said, "The kernel of writing is relating to someone else entirely on their terms."
Through his Fulbright Scholarship, Blitzer went on to Spain during a tumultuous time in the country's recent history. Serious austerity measures led to daily street protests. Blitzer noticed that the news articles in the Madrid papers were not capturing the energy on the street which impelled him to question why journalists were missing the story on a human level. He noted, "Writing is incidental to being in the world." Blitzer's stories connect the intellectual story line on the human level, exploring the space in between, where one person's story can illuminate a theme. Blitzer said, "Until I have a character, I don't have a story." Blitzer takes this aspect of his job very seriously. "I love when there's a moment when the person sees themselves in the writing. I don't know what these stories do to the world, but rendering someone's life back to them is a tremendous responsibility."
Despite the recent criticism of the media, Blitzer remains a journalist first. He added,"Journalism is a habit of mind, of being receptive. There's a constant scrutiny of the way things are."
The paper's incoming staff includes Editor in Chief Hannah Bash '18, Managing Editor of News, Sports and Investigative Journalism, Apara Kashyap '18 and Managing Editor of Features, Arts and Opinions, Gabrielle Ruban '18.