Journalists Need To Ask Stupid Questions

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Hack's NotebookThe Mac blogosphere has been busy eviscerating a journalist by the name of Bob Keefe for asking why Apple products aren’t part of the “Intel Inside” marketing scheme, now that they use Intel chips. The general idea underlying this criticism is that “Apple is way too cool to do that. What a stupid question.”

However, The Guardian‘s Charles Arthur makes a convincing case that [it was a completely justified question](
> Plus there’s a technique to Q+As, especially those with lots of journalists, that bloggers simply don’t know about because they don’t have the experience. One person asks a question, gets an answer: that might prompt someone else, who knows a little about the subject being answered, to glimpse a gap or a change between what’s been said and what’s been said before to the same question. That leads to a new angle to probe, until you start to open up angles that weren’t obvious before. It’s like the middle game of chess – tactics, responses, new tactics, result. We’re feral beasts in the media, remember? That’s why we work best in a pack, chasing the prey, nipping its legs until it falls over and we can feast on the flesh. (Pauses.) Intellectually, of course.
And he’s quite right. I’ve often felt that one thing young journalists need to learn to do (and are often shy of doing, for fear of looking stupid) is ask the most basic, obvious questions to ensure that (a) they understand the basics of the situation and that (b) the interviewee has the same view that everyone assumes he does. 

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.