Expert advice

Covering religion
Religiously ignorant journalists.” That was the headline that accurately captured the flat-out judgment of an unhappy essayist in Books & Culture (January-February). Sociologist Christian Smith, who holds an endowed chair at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, lit into unnamed journalists who have sought his expertise but who invariably botch words like “evangelical” and display their biases in their clueless questions.

Surely, I thought, Smith is writing about general-assignment reporters who have the unenviable task of tackling any subject when asked, or of filling in for beat reporters. These generalists, whose numbers are legion, must put pride aside and ask dumb things, perhaps poorly articulated, of experts in medicine, science, law, architecture and so on—testing their patience.


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