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Discussion > Insider's attitudes

This long but useful article about, among other things, the US progress toward universal healthcare insurance, Microsoft Mail Exchange Servers, and financial analysis, rating, and journalism, offers this summary:

"... insiders create specialized technical knowledge that excludes outsiders -- and specialized technical knowledge creates insiders. Both group dynamics and that technical background make it increasingly difficult to hold a conversation with people outside the group, and the insiders pretty quickly stop trying unless they're forced to.

As insiders begin to use that technical knowledge as the criteria for being admitted to serious conversation, they start losing a lot of important information about what the nonexperts know and are doing. But they don't know what they don't know. So they come to see themselves as the embodied will of the whole group. They forget, in other words, that they are insiders; instead, they think of themselves as the brains of the whole organism. If they know something, then It Is Known. If they do not fully communicate what is happening, this is not an exercise of power to their own ends; it is simply an efficiency measure. One major feature of this dynamic is that insiders rapidly begin to use their specialized technical knowledge to make the outsiders more pliable for their own purposes, without ever really being conscious that this is what they are doing, or how self-serving and dangerous it is.

... what really disturbs me is the sight of so many journalists acting like insiders. ... . But I do subscribe to the ideal of journalism as fundamentally responsible to readers, not to the governments, businesses or organizations they cover. When it comes to the policy process, we're ultimately supposed to be outsiders, not insiders. ...There are of course journalists who only deal with outsiders -- whistle-blowers and activists who are at war with some institution. But this introduces the mirror-image problem, because now you know all about the problems that the whistle-blowers are concerned about and don't understand anything about why the organization does what it does. All journalists are to some extent captured by their sources, whoever they are, simply because that's where we get our information, and the information we get is always shaped by someone else's agenda. But I think you can understand that without embracing it; you fight it as best as you can, with broad sourcing and a soupcon of skepticism about everything you are told.

All of which is to say that on every story we report, we should always be the outsiders; most important, we should always, always identify with our readers over the insider experts. That doesn't mean we can't root for a political party, or a policy, or a company. We are customers and citizens as well as writers, and we have a rooting interest in our own society. But it does mean that we should not think of ourselves as part of the policy elite; we should identify ourselves with our readers, who are not only less informed than the insiders, but also less informed than we are. "

I'm trying and failing to think of the name of one mainstream media celebrity journalist who takes this approach to climate insiders. Any suggestions?

Nov 20, 2014 at 5:34 PM | Unregistered Commenterpouncer

None. But then, should any mainstream media celebrity journalist take this approach, I suggest that they would very quickly no longer be a mainstream media celebrity journalist. As most of them are smart enough to see this, none of them are prepared to fall on their pens. The truth comes a lowly second to the bank-balance.

Nov 20, 2014 at 9:04 PM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

David Rose comes to mind as does Chris Booker. I know a few US names but they don't consistently report on climate issues. I'm surely forgetting names!

Nov 21, 2014 at 1:05 AM | Registered Commentershub

The author, Megan McArdle, has written at least a few non-insider things about climate herself. Anyone remember her excellent article on the Gleick/Heartland affair? Describing the fake memo, it had this great description:

Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.

Nov 21, 2014 at 9:46 AM | Registered CommenterJeremy Harvey