Be Sure To Ask ‘Experts’ About Connections To The Candidates

This is already happening, but it’s important not to forget that as we line up experts for two-ways and interviews about public policy issues, we need to know if they’re connected to or publicly support one of the presidential campaigns. A standard question these days should be something like “are you advising any of the campaigns?” Or, “have you been called by any of the campaigns or candidates?” Or, “are you publicly supporting one of the candidates?”

Check with them about connections to public policy groups and advocacy organizations as well.

We look for expertise on a wide variety of subjects that are campaign issues. They include climate change, criminal justice, economics, foreign affairs, immigration, national security and tax policy. The list could go on.

A “yes” response to one of our questions doesn’t automatically disqualify someone, but it is information we need to know, weigh and tell our listeners and readers if it’s decided that person should be part of our report.

Meanwhile, our responsibility doesn’t end with a “no” response from the expert. Trust, but verify. Do some searches to be sure that person hasn’t shown up in stories about “economists who support Smith” or “historians who are advising Jones.” The expert may have an explanation. After all, campaigns sometimes exaggerate their support and academics sometimes sign on to things without quite realizing what they’ve done.

It’s also important to know whether someone has advised candidates or groups in the past. That information may help put the expert’s thinking in context.

How far down the ballot do we need to go? It’s wise to ask whether they’re connected to any House, Senate or statewide races. We would also want to know if an expert in a particular field has gotten involved in a specific story — the Flint water crisis, for example.

(“Memmos;” Feb. 11, 2016)

February 11, 2016

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