Samuel Johnson once said “Questioning is not the mode of conversation among gentlemen. It is assuming a superiority, and it is particularly wrong to question a man concerning himself. There may be parts of his former life which he may not wish to be made known to other persons, or even brought to his own recollection.”
Of course Johnson said that to James Boswell, and had Boswell not asked Johnson plenty of questions, Boswell never would have written his Life of Samuel Johnson. And so I would be unable to give you the anecdote.
My guest today is Dean Nelson, who has written for (among other publications) the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and San Diego Magazine. A PhD in Journalism, he directs the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting, and has written or co-written 14 books, and today we’re talking abou this most recent, Talk to Me: How to Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro.
As Dean says in the conversation, while he had intended this book to be for journalism students, an editor pointed out to him that all of us have to ask people questions. Since good historical thinking always begins with good questions, that’s as true for historians and those interested in history as it is for anyone else.