"Why do journalists ask stupid questions?"

Back during the first AoNZ 2020 lockdown Paul Brislen, comms person and NZ Twitter personality, answered a question that a lot were asking. His answer goes a long way to also answering why I ask seemingly simple questions in meetings, especially when asking the the definition of an acronym that I know already

As is the nature of Twitter Pauls answer was a thread over 12 tweets, I've pulled them all together.

"Why do journalists ask stupid questions?"

by @paulbrislen, Apr 8 2020

There's a bit of misunderstanding out there about why journalists ask stupid questions - I think stemming from the press conferences and seeing the sausage get made. I'd like to address that if I may.

Sometimes journalists ask stupid questions because they're stupid. This is usually not the case but can happen. Usually they ask stupid questions to get the ANSWER to the stupid question on tape or film or on record. This is important.

They need to get it on the record because it often doesn't matter what "everyone believes" but it does matter what the interviewee believes. That's what the questions are for - to find out what they have to say.

So when a reporter asks about whether COVID was caused by 5G it's to get two things: the factual answer and the emotional answer. The footage and stills of Dr Bloomfield's face paint a huge picture - far more than any answer I could give when asked the same question, and while it's obviously a stupid question, getting someone on the record refuting it is important to the story and to convincing the bulk of the audience that it's stupid.

You'll never convince the extremists of the view - that's why they're extreme - but you can convince the people in the middle who don't know what's true or not and need reassurance. That's good work right there.

It doesn't mean the journalist didn't hear the earlier question but sometimes the answer could be framed somewhat better or differently and that will suit different stories.

I fully appreciate that most people don't often see press conferences - they're used to seeing either a written finished story or a taped interview or a live interview - PCs are a different beast serving different types of journalists.

Print journos ask long stupid questions while they work it out in their head. For them the interview is a way of extracting information for the thing they're producing - the story.

Broadcast journos are after a different type of answer - because the interview IS the finished product for them: so they quite often need cut aways, b-roll and all the rest that seems so stupid to a print reporter. It's all goods.

So in conclusion I'd like to say: journalists aren't experts, but they're not stupid. They ask questions for different reasons from each other and from the public, and it can seem odd. And 5G doesn't give you cancer, covid or cooties.

Fin 12/12

[source: @paulbrislen, Apr 8, 2020


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