Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Trust Me, I’m An Expert

Like everyone else, you have probably lost count of the times you’ve been misled by a television weatherman, ripped off by a mechanic, or otherwise done wrong by an expert you relied on.

My latest Notes From A Polite New Yorker column is now online and you can ready my take on society’s overreliance on experts.

I make a special note to point out the dependence that many journalists have to experts. I work as a financial journalist covering the credit markets, the same credit markets that collapsed and took the global economy with it. Since there are few working journalists who have the expertise of the analysts, lawyers or brokers, we rely on talking to analysts, lawyers and brokers to get information. When groupthink takes hold within an “expert class” of sources, that thinking bleeds into news coverage.

I’d love to be able to say that I was a lone voice in the wilderness warning about impending economic doom, but I wasn’t. I listened to the experts when times were good. Good news stories are easier to write, and I did not feel confident enough in my grasp of the markets to ask the probing questions we should have been asking.

There are always dissenting voices though, and I’m proud that those were included in some of my stories during the heyday of easy corporate credit. So don’t discount experts entirely, but listen to a variety of them. And if all the news is good news, it’s too good to be true.

No comments: