“Expert” Advice

We all have pet peeves. Lately, one of mine has been rearing its ugly head as I read articles online and watch the news. It’s the use of “expert.” Reporters are seemingly in love with the term, to the point of eschewing any meaningful reference to a person’s background.

Last night, for example, I watched a report detailing a study about how an office worker’s bad attitude can impact the overall work environment. For extra commentary, the reporter interviewed a “psychology expert” on camera. I put that phrase in quotes because it’s the exact credit that appeared below the woman’s name on screen. The reporter didn’t even bother to mention the interviewee’s affiliation in his voice over; in fact, he even used the word expert. Whatever happened to “psychiatrist, XYZ Medical Center” or “professor of psychology, ABC University”? We the viewers were left to assume that the woman was highly credible.

To use the common saying, if you assume, you make an a** out of you and me.

This “expert” commentary and advice is happening time and time again, and it’s sheer laziness, plain and simple. It also opens the door to credibility issues, particularly for the reporters. “Expert” implies someone with deep academic knowledge of and/or first-hand experience in a particular niche. Yet, some of the very “experts” being quoted and put on camera, while knowledgeable about a subject, do not have years of experience. Influential? Sure. Passionate about a topic? Yes. Thought leaders? Possibly… but not necessarily experts.

Do yourselves, and your favorite media outlets, a favor. The next time you read or hear “expert” rather than a true accreditation or background description, contact the reporter directly. Tell him or her you appreciate the story subject but want to know whether the interviewees are the real deal–and “expert” just doesn’t cut it.

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