Everyone's NOT an Expert

Photo by Chris Howell
I'm going to throw out a half-baked theory.

Media, especially radio and cable TV, should stop doing almost all interviews with non-experts. If the first duty of a news organization is to create a better informed electorate, then the non-expert interview is not helping and in some cases hurting.

You've seen or heard these people mostly on MSNBC or FOX or NPR. Talking heads giving their opinion.  They are given air time not because they have some sort of special knowledge but because of who they are. They could be from the White House. They could be political pollsters. They could be Senators or Representatives.  They are asked to give us their opinion, to tell us how they feel. In almost every case it's not informative. Outside of knowing how someone feels, the listener doesn't get to the end of the interview with any new or useful information.

If new employment numbers come out, have a guest who can tell us what the numbers mean. Interview an expert who can tell us why employment is up or down and what it means for the future. So we can decide if we agree with the policies our political representatives are promoting. Expert analysis informs us when we go to the ballot box.

Don't air the lies of a White House staff member about how the president's policies are responsible for increased employment (when employment is down).  When you do I'm a dumber voter. ESPECIALLY DON'T INTERVIEW SERIAL LIARS.

Whenever a claim is made, reporters should demand proof.  As a listener you should employ Hitchen's Razor.  "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence"  The burden of proof regarding the truthfulness of a claim lies with the one who makes the claim, and if this burden is not met, the claim is unfounded, and its opponents need not argue further in order to dismiss it.

These interviews should be with real experts. Someone as far from politics and as close to science as possible. Show us the interview subject's experience and credentials so we can decide what their bias may be.

I would allow very limited exceptions to this rule for the man on the street interviews. Man on the street interviews should be done rarely and only by local media. They should be broadcast only if they give the listener a fair representative sample of how most people in your community feel.  It's not easy to do. But do the hard work. As a reporter you have a duty to inform!

I'm not encouraged that media outlets will suddenly stop interviewing non-experts so they can help create a better informed public.  One, they have all that time to fill. And two, each outlet has carved out an audience who already agrees with their slant. Having someone on TV spout an opinion you agree with makes you feel better, keeps you watching and therefore, sells more advertising. Unfortunately, it's doesn't help make better informed citizens.

P.S. Yeah, the above screed is just a theory and my opinion. I don't know if I'm an expert but I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism from The Ohio State University and more then 20 year's experience as a writer and radio news reporter.