Tuesday, November 16, 2004

TV Panhandling

The Man On the Street (M.O.S.) Interview is a time honored tradition in television news. But as the person who often has to ask total strangers dopey questions, I hate them. really, it's one step above pan-handling - especially when you're doing it solo. Lurking in the bushes outside of a post office and trying to figure out which passerby to ask about Bosnia - these are not things normal people do.

I once worked for a station that relied on a good chunk of Man On the Street interviews to pad out their early afternoon newscasts. It fell on us in the field to gather this fascinating material and I grew to loathe the process. As anyone who's stuck a lens in a passserby's face knows, you get ALL kinds of responses - from the thoughtful pause to the drunken shout-out. Or worse yet, the dreaded "Well, I don't wanna be on camera, but I tell ya what I think..."

Here's a hint: If you DON'T want to share it ON camera, the guy behind the lens couldn't care less about your thoughts on The War on Terror. Or Global Warming. Or Paris Hilton's Lost Dog, or whatever inane query some moron back at the shop came up with. KEEP MOVING PEOPLE!

Hmmm Mmm. I remember a particular low point in the public opinion pendulum. A law regarding abortion rights had just passed and some producer wanted a whole string of citizen reaction soundbites. With more than a little trepidation I took to the field, loitering outside a busy shopping center with wireless microphone and betacam in tow.

I don't remember the particulars - only that I nearly sparked a holy war between one uptight soccer mom and two scary hillbilly chicks. That was a conversation I didn't need to have and I soon told the desk where they could shove their questions. I know other newsgatherers who really dig this kind of thing, but it ain't me.

Now if you'll excuse me, this skinny dude in the Black Flag t-shirt looks like a talker. Wonder how he feels about the county's new waste-management program?

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