How to get good person on the street interviews (Vox Pops)

Vox pops (short for vox populi, Latin for voice of the people) are used in radio and TV to get the pulse of what people are thinking about an issue or to break up the newscast with a fun question.  Vox Pops are important because they bring the people to the issue, providing authenticity to the story.

How to get good Vox Pops:

  • Smile. No one wants to talk to a scowling stranger
  • Accept rejection. Don’t be offended if someone turns you down.  Or many people turn you down. They might be in a rush or not comfortable speaking into a mic.  Keep asking; there are plenty of people out there who like to give their opinion. Find places where people are waiting; bored people may be more willing to talk.
  • Set recording level. When someone agrees, first make sure you set their recording level.  Ask them a throwaway question while you adjust the record level. Make sure the mic is just a few inches from their mouth.
  • Get the proper pronunciation and spelling of name.  Ask them to say their name in a full sentence. If what they do or where they live is important to your vox pop, ask them to include that in case you want to use their name in the edited piece.
  • Mic yourself.  Record your question into the microphone before turning it to the person answering. It gives you flexibility in editing if your question is on mic.
  • Ask everyone the same question.   Make sure your main question is open ended, and not a question that will elicit a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Re-ask.  If someone gives a good answer and has a strong opinion, but hasn’t worded it right or fumbled too much when they said it, ask it again.
  • Keep it short.  A few minutes for each person should do it; that way you can interview a lot of people.
  • Get variety. Interview enough people so that you can choose the absolute best answers and varied perspectives.
  • Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t just ask people who look like you and your friends. Find different ages, ethnicities and viewpoints.
  • It’s not a scientific poll.  If you stop 20 people and 18 of them agree L.A. should have a football team, do not conclude that the majority of people in L.A. want a football team.  Instead, you can set up your vox pop by saying, “Most of the 20 people who stopped to talk to today said they want Los Angeles to have a football team.”
  • Short and snappy.  Keep it moving with short clips from each person.  Think about how they flow together — maybe sometimes they reinforce each other and other times they contradict each other —  and how each voice sounds next to another — tone and pitch of the voice are similar or very different.
  • Write intro for the newscast.  Always write a set-up to your vox pop.  You might lead into the vox pop by saying something like, “We sent Joe Annenberg to Grand Park to find out how residents feel about bringing a football team to L.A.”
  • Write outro for the newscast. Always have a line of copy AFTER the vox pop. If you’ve used 4-6 people, name them in order.

Check out this tip sheet for more information on radio vox pops

Also, the full Producer Manual can be accessed here.

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