Vox popping

I’ve heard a lot of journalists complain about doing vox pops.
It’s often a job given to interns – I know I did them as an intern.

“Hey, can you please go out and ask some people in the mall these questions?”

I was asked as a long list of questions was thrust at me.

“Don’t forget to take photos and get their names, ages, suburbs and professions.”

As a journalism educator, I consider this a crucial task and I look forward to seeing my students confront their fears and approach members of the public for comment on the issues of the day.

Of course, it’s good because it gives a story some colour and it allows the key stakeholders share their thoughts on a given issue, but I think it’s one of the keystones of a journalist’s job.

Reporters should be able to confidently approach and quickly develop a rapport with a diverse range of people.

Doing vox pops gives trainee journalists the chance to develop these skills and I’ve had a number of students thank me down the track.

“I detested doing vox pops at the start,” one student told me, “but now I do it without even thinking about it.”

I remember seeing some of the more outgoing students struggle to get comments while some of the quieter students were able to quickly build some kind of trust with the people they were approaching.

It seemed that one of the extroverted students looked like he was selling something. Maybe that was it?

“It’s a difficult,” I told him, “to be confident but not look cocky.”
Other students struggled with another issue.

“Should I tell them I’m a student, or should I just tell them that I’m writing a story?”

As a student I, personally, chose the latter, but I always encouraged students to go with whatever they were comfortable with.

Importantly, I often told students, the vox pops are not over when you get the quotes.

I always encouraged them to ask the interviewees a few follow-up questions – you never know what kind of subject matter experts you’re talking to – and ask them to keep you in mind for future tip-offs.

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