Fortunately, The Times is still committed to such stories, as are some other journalists and news organization. Bravo, for example, to the two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who did extraordinary reporting on the killings of Rohingya in Myanmar — and as a result have now been imprisoned for more than a year. But these are tough stories to get an audience for. There’s a reason that CNN, MSNBC and Fox are not all over the Central African Republic crisis, Yemen starvation and global violence against women.
Periodically when I give a talk, someone in the audience will come up afterward and say something like, “More journalists should cover these stories!” Well, the challenge is that if they did, even more news organizations would be going broke.
We in the news media haven’t figured out a good business model to pay for coverage of global stories that are important but don’t have a large natural audience. Philanthropy, through organizations like the Pulitzer Center, may be part of the answer.
On the domestic front, I wrote a column in May about my investigation into the case of a man in California named Kevin Cooper who I believe was framed for murder by the San Bernardino County sheriff’s office. That May column was a hit, but two follow-ups about Cooper were also among my year’s worst read.
I’m still hoping for yet another follow-up piece: a governor brave enough to allow new DNA testing that might prove Cooper innocent and show who really did commit the murders.
The column I was perhaps proudest of in 2018 did poorly, although not disastrously: A few people read it besides my mom. It was a report from Rohingya villages that I sneaked into in Myanmar to recount “A Genocide in Slow Motion.” Or maybe my mom, seeking to cheer me up, simply clicked on it a number of times!
As for my columns at the other end of the spectrum, the most read, they were a mixed bag. One was about Trump’s missteps on North Korea, one about child marriage remaining widespread in America, and several about guns and the N.R.A.