I went to see NBC News’ David Gregory speak tonight in a little auditorium on Nantucket Island. He spoke for an hour, mostly about the failures of our political system and our economy and our media, and then he closed by reminding everyone that we were on a little island 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, and that everything probably isn’t as bad as it seems.
When that was over, Gregory opened up the floor to questions.
This is the part of the lecture I hate.
Not the idea of Q&A. That I love. We need more Q&A in our lives, and not just at big fancy lectures involving salt-and-pepper-haired reporters in nice blazers. We need lots of thoughtful questions and lots of thoughtful answers in our day-to-day lives. And we need everyone to be asking and thinking and listening in order to be part of this nice little experiment in domestic living that we’ve got going on here in America.
Participation is a very, very good thing, and I encourage it highly.
What I dislike is that I ever since I got my degree from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, something’s changed for me. I’ll be at a lecture like I was tonight. I’ll be there with someone else. Let’s call this man, for the sake of accuracy, my father. The moderator will open up the floor to questions. And I will sit back in my chair and listen to questions being asked.
Dad does not like this.
See, my father does not see me as a reporter. Or a journalist. Or a writer. He sees me as a Professional Question Asker. That’s what he believes I earned a degree in out in ol’ Columbia, Mo. And when an opportunity to use my Professional Question Asking skills passes without me asking a question… well, he sees it as an invalidation of my college degree.
And I find this funny. Because I am most definitely not a Professional Question Asker. If there’s anything my Mizzou degree certifies, it’s that I’m a Professional Listener. My job is, if at all possible, to shut up and listen. And then report what I’ve learned. That’s why I’m usually in the back of the room scribbling notes on the lecture program.
At these Q&As, I do this quite well.
Dad does not like this.
But here’s what I’m thinking: Pilots don’t get asked to fly planes on their day off. Bobby Flay doesn’t get thrown behind the grill every time he goes out to eat. Librarians don’t just show up at random libraries and start implementing the Dewey Decimal System.
So I suppose it’s with several years of Professional Question Asking behind me that I ask this: Why do I keep getting picked on?