Instant Experts  | American Journalism Review
From AJR,   September 1998

Instant Experts   

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (, a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

TRAUMATIC STORIES SUCH AS SCHOOL shootings often prompt waves of faxes to newsrooms from instant experts, many with axes to grind and agendas to push.
Steven Gorelick urges reporters to navigate carefully what he calls a ``minefield'' of experts. ``In the pressure to get a story done,'' says the sociologist and adjunct professor of communications and journalism at the City University of New York, ``it's often tempting to use the first intelligent-sounding person with a Ph.D. after their name who has something to say.''
He suggests newsrooms be ready in advance with lists of known entities in various categories. Peter Bhatia, the Oregonian's executive editor, agrees, crediting the paper's children and family team for maintaining an informal who's who in this area. In covering the school shooting in Springfield, Oregon, he says, ``We were well served by the fact that we have a large group of people who specialize in those issues.''

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