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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 disposal, visitor 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.