September 27, 2004

RATHERGATE UPDATE: This excellent column notes that news media people know less than they think — but that more importantly, they sharply underestimate what ordinary people know:

If you have not been famous or otherwise insulated, you have likely had half a dozen jobs by the age of 50. You have perhaps started, or tried to start, your own business. You have moved at least four times in adulthood, and bought and sold perhaps that many houses or condos, You have researched a number of areas of the country and lived in two or three (and not just Washington, New York, and Los Angeles). You have perhaps served a military hitch. You have had children in public schools or you’ve been home-schooling; you’ve raised funds for a church or a lodge or a Boy Scout troop. In some context or other, you have sold something door to door, published a newsletter, sold advertising, served on a committee, had a hand in hiring and firing.

If you’ve ever had a hobby, you probably have an expert education in something like motorcycle mechanics, photography, flying, firearms, railroad history, or ornithology.

Just to the matter at hand: Like Buckhead, who is a 46-year-old lawyer, you have probably had to work with, or even specify the purchase of, several computer systems. Indeed, you’re old enough to remember when there were no computers in offices. You have participated in the entire computer revolution. You’re old enough to have learned to type on a typewriter, and maybe even to have worked on one.

So what’s the big mystery? Not that ordinary people knew “arcane” things about typefaces and spacing, but that the big machers at CBS didn’t know perfectly ordinary things.

Excellent points.