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    What you don’t know

    Via Instapundit, Bruce Kesler at Democracy Project makes an unsettling discovery:

    Wonder why so many of the news articles you read, or steam over, are lacking essential information or perspective? Wonder no longer. Knowledge and experience of the subject is only a “plus.”

    Would the AP advertise for a sports reporter for whom knowledge and experience with baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, and so forth is only a “plus,” rather than essential and primary?

    So, why should the AP believe that knowledge and experience of intelligence, or medicine, or any other important and technical subject only requires a “plus”?

    I love America, but we do have a tendency to believe that you can learn absolutely anything on the fly. And it’s not just “technical subjects” in the hard-science sense that cause people to trip up. You’ll have noticed that many of us Westerners who blog from Asia expend a lot of energy complaining about the clueless reporting of foreign correspondents here. Or not necessarily clueless, but rote and tending to default to one of a dozen or so stock perspectives on the Mysterious Far East. (Simon World is the best overall resource if you want that kind of commentary.)

    It’s not all the fault of the reporters themselves, I imagine, since editors like stories that are to the point and readily comprehensible. It must be difficult to write genuinely nuanced, searching analyses of cultural differences when the best way to please the boss is to turn in yet more column-inches-by-numbers about those crazy prematurely-sexualized teenagers hanging around Shibuya.

    And yet, I’ve met Tokyo personnel for several of the major news outlets informally, and in several cases–not most, mind, but enough to be disturbing–I’ve been appalled at their elementary lack of understanding of the environment they’re supposed to be reporting authoritatively on. It’s one thing to have some learning to do; everyone has to start somewhere, after all. It’s quite another not to know where your defects of knowledge lie and therefore what should set off your BS detector when you hear it from an interviewee, are fed it by your own translator, or read it in the local press. If you can read the local press without asking your Japanese sig. oth. for help, that is.

    2 Responses to “What you don’t know”

    1. John says:

      I spent nearly 2 years in Tokyo and I don’t feel qualified to report about the place.

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, I don’t know that starting out as an expert is necessary; but your learning curve needs to be steep.

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