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No such thing as a "stupid" question
September 27, 2011 - Jim Smith
According to the News 4 Kids page in today's News and Sentinel, Wednesday is "Ask a Stupid Question Day," which reportedly started in the 1980s as a way for teachers to get students to ask more questions, thus getting more answers, expanded their knowledge and learning the valuable lesson of if you want to know something, ask someone who knows the answer.
A million years ago, I had an editor at my first newspaper in Delaware, Ohio, who used to tell me to ask questions even when I thought I knew the answers, because I could be wrong and readers didn't care what I thought I knew, they cared what the interviewee knew.
When I commented that I sometimes felt silly when asking stupid questions for which everyone, including me, should know the answer, the late editor, Red Reed, said, "There's no such thing as a stupid question, just stupid answers."
That's one of those key phrases that has stuck with me for more than 40 years in this crazy newspaper business, and one I have repeated thousands of times to reporters, both young and old.
We all ask questions to learn what someone else knows, thinks, believes or suspects. So the question cannot be stupid. But some of the answers sure can be right on target, totally off-base, dead wrong, biased, unrealistic, motivated by self-esteem, self-serving and/or downright humorous.
So, as I have told reporters for decades, don't be afraid to ask that "stupid" question, just be prepared for the full range of answers.
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