One of the things I wish more reporters had the opportunity to do is be interviewed by other reporters. I've had my share of experiences being on the other end of the pad and pen. In some cases, the reporter is thorough and takes the time to really understand what you are saying. I've also been misquoted, which is an absolutely horrifying experience. In one case, I was misquoted to say the opposite of what I was actually saying. I called the reporter to complain and she yelled at me. I mean, really! There is also the far more frequent occurrence of a reporter who calls looking for a preconceived idea or quote and when they don't get it, they try to put words in my mouth or simply get off the phone. The stories end up as they began -- with the reporter's idea of the permissible perspectives firmly in place. If more reporters were on the receiving end of being misquoted or dismissed for not saying the right thing, I think the quality of their reporting would improve.
Amy Welborn, a Roman Catholic blogger of Open Book fame, posted thoughts on Lisa Miller's Newsweek article on Pope Benedict XVI's new book. One of her commenters, Notre Dame University professor Lawrence Cunningham, was interviewed for the piece:
Readers may be interested in this bit of background to the risible article by Ms Miller. The person who is acknowledged as helping with the article called me a few weeks before this article appeared doing "research." She wanted the names of famous books on Jesus and a description of their contents beginning with Reimarus. When I told her gently that the history of the "higher" criticism was a tad complicated she soldiered on asking about Schweitzer (the only name she seems to know) and then, jumping ahead nearly a century, something about the Jesus Seminar. When I told her about some sources she might consult she said that she was on "deadline." Not to put too fine a point on it: she did not have a clue. Lesson to be learned: read these articles in the popular press with a shovel full of salt. As for the Miller piece itself: patronizing and snarky about sums it up. Oh, how I miss the days when Ken Woodward (Notre Dame -- Class of 57) wrote on religion.
Very interesting. I don't believe reporters need to be experts in their field. In fact, sometimes I think it helps if you can tell sources that you need to be educated about a given topic. But this level of ignorance is another thing entirely.