“Playing dumb is often one of the best journalistic tools we have.”

From a New York Times story by Remy Tumin headlined “His Harvard Ph.D.? A License to Be Dumb”:

Latif Nasser’s new Netflix series, “Connected,” was only two days old when he and his wife headed to the hospital to have a baby. Add a pandemic to the mix and you have what Nasser calls “the weirdest time on top of the weirdest time.”

But Nasser is used to weird. In fact, he thrives in it.

“That’s sort of my compass,” he said last week from Los Angeles. “Surprise and delight and wonder. Those are the things that I gravitate toward.”. . .

Did you have an “ah-ha” moment when you first fell in love with science?

When I was in high school, it felt like someone handed you a big fact textbook and said, “Here are a bunch of answers to questions that you didn’t even ask.” That’s how we teach science. I realized in college, and then more so in grad school, that oh no, no no, they’re not the answers. There are shockingly simple questions that we don’t know the answer to, and we’re still figuring it out. . . .

We can’t be experts at everything, but you do have a Ph.D. in the history of science. Has that helped you shape your reporting?

Paradoxically, I think my fancy Harvard Ph.D. has given me the license to be dumb. I feel like I can walk into a room and I can just ask the actual question that is actually on my mind without fear of people thinking I’m an idiot. Because often I am! That’s why I love this job.

Playing dumb is often one of the best journalistic tools we have.

Oh, I feel that so hard! That’s my default crouch: I’m an idiot. Explain it to me. That’s how I jump into every interview.

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