(Re-)Soliciting Your Expertise

 

On last week’s Flyover Country, guest Kate Braestrup made a fascinating point about how ignorance and a lack of curiosity often lead to truly boneheaded conclusions. As Kate described, many pundits — chief among them, Ta-Nehisi Coates — have cited the fact that the Ferguson, MO police left Michael Brown’s body where he’d fallen for four hours as prima facie evidence of indifference to the dignity of black Americans. As Kate further described, however, this is precisely the wrong conclusion to draw from that grisly fact: Indeed, that Brown’s body was left there for so long is actually evidence of the profound concern the police had to investigate his death without disturbing the evidence. Kate knows this not only from her work as a chaplain for the Maine Warden Service (which often recovers bodies, sometimes from crime scenes), but also because her own husband’s body was left in place for four-and-a-half hours after he was struck and killed by a vehicle while in the line of duty as a Maine State Trooper.

All this brought to mind one of my favorite things to have ever happened on Ricochet: the “Ask the Expert” series, in which members from a variety of professions — personal transportation, emergency room medicine, waste water treatment, IT, academia, janitorial services, nuclear fuel disposalvisitor services, concrete laying, etc. — explained what the public should know about these jobs, but so often do not. It was one of those wonderful, bottom-up things that can only happen on Ricochet because no other site can match our members’ breadth of knowledge and experience.

It’s way past time we brought this back. If you’re an expert or professional, what should the public know about your field that it generally doesn’t? For a spin on the idea, what should a reporter or informed news consumer know — or know to to ask — when writing or reading an article that touches on your work? If you have an example of reporting gone awry, because the reporter didn’t know what questions to ask, that works, too.

Let’s have it, Ricochet. And if you’re not a member, but have some expertise to share, there’s an easy way to fix that.

There are 56 comments.

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  1. Eric Hines Inactive
    Eric Hines
    @EricHines

    One thing for a journalist to be leery of is asking questions that proceed from false premises–a failing easily mitigated by not blithely accepting the underlying premise as Received Truth–which, of course, requires the journalist’s intern actually to think about such things (see what I did there?).

    Here’s an example, sadly, from today’s WSJ:

    So far, lawmakers have not been able to overcome the partisan gridlock that has defeated a lengthening list of gun-control proposals on the Senate’s floor since the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, which left 20 children and six adult staff members dead.

    The authors of this piece are blithely assuming that not passing legislation must be gridlock.  It couldn’t possibly be–in their journalistic minds–that enough legislators considered the legislation to be bad that it ought not be passed (notice that distinction, too, between “not passing” and “blocking”).  Nor could it possibly be the case that it isn’t gridlock to not pass legislation, it’s rather Congress doing its job in keeping the explosion of laws to a minimum.

    From the cellular world (my wife’s late career): before writing about cell networks it would be helpful if journalists had at least a grade schooler’s knowledge of how radio works and how networks work.

    Eric Hines

    • #1
  2. RyanM Member
    RyanM
    @RyanM

    I have also seen posts about beekeeping, old car restoration, number-crunching (sorry Spengler, that’s as good as I can summarize what you do), and ridiculously serious board-gaming tables…

    There is, deep in the dark recesses of Ricochet, if you look hard enough, a place for all of these things.

    And people think we’re all Hillary and Trump all the time.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Hmmn, I could do one on one of my more boring areas of expertise.

    • #3
  4. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    RyanM: I have also seen posts about beekeeping

    I’m working on a beekeeping comment now.

    • #4
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    RyanM:I have also seen posts about beekeeping, old car restoration, number-crunching (sorry Spengler, that’s as good as I can summarize what you do), and ridiculously serious board-gaming tables…

    There is, deep in the dark recesses of Ricochet, if you look hard enough, a place for all of these things.

    And people think we’re all Hillary and Trump all the time.

    Somewhere Spengler is doing the Hulk smash! number on, well, numbers… Or students. Do you remember when he was torturing students? I thought he was going to start a cult or something like that, to infiltrate the institutions, but he was all sweetness & care…

    • #5
  6. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Eric Hines: The authors of this piece are blithely assuming that not passing legislation must be gridlock. It couldn’t possibly be–in their journalistic minds–that enough legislators considered the legislation to be bad that it ought not be passed

    The statement above represents what is truly valuable about Ricochet, to me at least.

    It is the absolute truth, but I have never seen it said anywhere but here.

    • #6
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Arahant:Hmmn, I could do one on one of my more boring areas of expertise.

    More boring? Love it! Of course, Arahant The Game, where you’re tyrannizing a third-world country, I’ve some suggestions, would also be good.

    • #7
  8. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    MarciN:

    Eric Hines: The authors of this piece are blithely assuming that not passing legislation must be gridlock. It couldn’t possibly be–in their journalistic minds–that enough legislators considered the legislation to be bad that it ought not be passed

    The statement above represents what is truly valuable about Ricochet, to me at least.

    It is the absolute truth, but I have never seen it said anywhere but here.

    Ricochet: A safe space for horse sense.

    • #8
  9. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    I keep bees in my backyard. For me, beekeeping is a hobby not a profession. I am a fairly novice beekeeper, but beekeeping is an all-or-nothing commitment. I would comfortably venture that in my second year of the hobby, I have had more exposure to bees than most non-beekeepers will have in their lifetimes.

    There are things I would like everyone to know and there are other things that I would like the press to know. I will put each in a separate comment.

    • #9
  10. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    Honeybees for everyone:

    All stinging insects get lumped into the ‘scary’ category. That’s why few people keep honeybees. But honeybees are very different from wasps and hornets in both look and temperament. Honeybees are fuzzy; wasps and hornets are not. Honeybees are curious; wasps and hornets are ill-tempered.

    So, let’s say for a moment that you are not aggressively shaking a honeybee hive and a honeybee happens to land on you. Consider that her main concern is, “is this thing I’ve landed on a source of pollen?” Once she figures out that you are not, she will fly away. Or, she will realize you are a source of salt, lick off some salt, and then fly away.

    Consider also that bees are not mammals: our biologies are different. Bees breathe through holes in the sides of their abdomen and their abdomen works like a bellows. So, if a honeybee lands on you, and you notice that its “tail” is pulsing, this is not a sign of agitation or aggression – the honeybee is just breathing. So, relax, breathe – that’s what the honeybee is doing.

    Honeybees die soon after stinging, so they will only sting if they feel that their life or their hive is threatened. So, again, if you’re not aggressively shaking a honeybee hive, they really won’t care much about you.

    • #10
  11. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    Honeybees for the press:

    When honeybees swarm, they do so because something was not optimal about their last hive, usually overpopulation. When swarming, they are looking for a new optimal location to call home. They have no current home to be territorial about. Their queen is well protected in the middle of the swarm. Any non-immediate threats (an immediate threat being a physical attack on the swarm) will most likely be avoided and the swarm will move on (who wants to move to a dangerous neighborhood). All of that said, honeybees are fairly docile when swarming. So, please stop with the swarm scare stories. Instead, inform people to call a local apiary. A beekeeper will gladly remove and adopt these no-cost bees.

    The average hive, when at full seasonal capacity can hold up to 30,000 bees. So, when you do scare stories about accidents involving a delivery of bees and 100,000 bees were released, understand that that is about four hives’ worth. Commercial apiaries have far more than just four hives. As a novice hobbyist, I probably have about 30,000 to 40,000 bees in my backyard right now. So, please, stop.

    • #11
  12. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    You should turn it into a separate post, Rick.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Titus Techera:

    Arahant:Hmmn, I could do one on one of my more boring areas of expertise.

    More boring? Love it! Of course, Arahant The Game, where you’re tyrannizing a third-world country, I’ve some suggestions, would also be good.

    That gets into corporate governance, unless I make it a sole-proprietorship.

    • #13
  14. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Arahant:You should turn it into a separate post, Rick.

    POST!

    • #14
  15. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Arahant:You should turn it into a separate post, Rick.

    POST!

    Thanks, Tom & Arry. I’ll knock together something later tonight.

    • #15
  16. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Well, if you ask…

    I may do a post on some state and local government issues that annoy me when journalists get them wrong.

    Specifically regarding journalists -I’ve had a handful of interactions with journalists working a story, and my impressions of them is that they are lower than used car salesmen.  That’s actually unfair to used car salesmen, who I’ve largely found to be honest people (though perhaps that is the advent of CarFax).

    But my greatest irritation is when a journalist calls me to ask questions and then simply writes that I said they were correct.  My future policy may very well be to inform all journalists that I will not mouth their words.  If they want to talk to me on background, I will happily instruct them in the areas of my expertise, but if they want to draw a conclusion on their own, they will darn well put their name on it, not mine.

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Arry? What fresh hell is this!

    • #17
  18. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    Titus Techera:Arry? What fresh hell is this!

    It’s an intended, good-natured poke. Arahant decided to do a series of advice columns. Whenever I post a snarky question comment to one of them, I begin it with, “Dear Arry.”

    • #18
  19. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Is there anything that Te-Nehisi Coates does not take as prima facie evidence of indifference to the dignity of black Americans?

    • #19
  20. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Eudaimonia Rick: Thanks, Tom & Arry. I’ll knock together something later tonight.

    Remember your tags:

    Tags: ask the expert

    • #20
  21. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    There is gravity in space.  The strength of Earth’s gravity experienced by the International Space Station is about 90% of what we feel on the surface.  What makes the astronauts feel weightless is that they and the ISS are mutually in free-fall.  It’s like they are perpetually on the downhill leg of a giant roller coaster, falling toward the ground at about 1 g and giving them that floaty feeling in their stomachs.  But the ISS and the astronauts inside it are also moving laterally at tremendous speed — so fast that their path of free-fall is so far ahead of them it doesn’t even intersect the Earth.  That’s called orbit.

    The corollary to this is that to get in space and stay there, it’s not enough just to fly up to a high altitude outside the atmosphere.  You have to achieve enough lateral speed that when you inevitably start to fall back toward  the Earth, you miss.

    • #21
  22. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Eudaimonia Rick:

    Titus Techera:Arry? What fresh hell is this!

    It’s an intended, good-natured poke. Arahant decided to do a series of advice columns. Whenever I post a snarky question comment to one of them, I begin it with, “Dear Arry.”

    Well, if you sally forth with snarky questions–go loaded for bear…

    • #22
  23. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Arahant:

    Titus Techera:

    Arahant:Hmmn, I could do one on one of my more boring areas of expertise.

    More boring? Love it! Of course, Arahant The Game, where you’re tyrannizing a third-world country, I’ve some suggestions, would also be good.

    That gets into corporate governance, unless I make it a sole-proprietorship.

    Hasn’t Romania suffered enough?!

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Austin Murrey: Hasn’t Romania suffered enough?!

    Technically, Romania is considered Second World, but that could work, too.

    • #24
  25. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Eudaimonia Rick:

    It’s an intended, good-natured poke. Arahant decided to do a series of advice columns. Whenever I post a snarky question comment to one of them, I begin it with, “Dear Arry.”

    Okay, this totally threw me for a loop as I (pre-posting) misspelled “awry” and thought I somehow hadn’t corrected it in the final draft.

    Shorter version: you jerk.

    • #25
  26. Eudaimonia Rick Inactive
    Eudaimonia Rick
    @RickPoach

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Shorter version: you jerk.

    I’m here to help.

    • #26
  27. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Arahant:

    Austin Murrey: Hasn’t Romania suffered enough?!

    Technically, Romania is considered Second World, but that could work, too.

    The second world is over…

    • #27
  28. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Titus Techera:

    Arahant:

    Austin Murrey: Hasn’t Romania suffered enough?!

    Technically, Romania is considered Second World, but that could work, too.

    The second world is over…

    As L. Ron Hubbard said, if you really want to make money, start a religion.

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Arahant:

    Titus Techera:

    Arahant:

    Austin Murrey: Hasn’t Romania suffered enough?!

    Technically, Romania is considered Second World, but that could work, too.

    The second world is over…

    As L. Ron Hubbard said, if you really want to make money, start a religion.

    I am kind of strapped, but I don’t think I will-

    • #29
  30. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    You on the other hand maybe should!

    • #30

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