Standing outside in the cold trying to interest someone in a subject that they couldn’t care less about is bad. Trying to convince them their bland opinions are strong enough that they want to be quoted in the paper is worse. Trying to get them to smile for a photograph to go with their bland opinion is truly demoralising.
Vox Pops are, lets face it, a completely lazy journalism tool, used when deadlines are looming and you have half a page of copy to fill. No local newspaper editor has ever sat down on a Thursday to plan next week’s issue and said “I think what this paper needs more of is the opinion of decrepit old ladies.” They are completely unrepresentative – partially because it is only certain types of people who wonder the streets during the day and partially because journalists are humans and see some people as more approachable than others. This leads to a much higher proportion of retired, friendly-looking old ladies than you could ever want.
And they are outdated. When did you last see an internet journalist doing a vox pop? That’s exactly what comments on all articles are for. Except with comments/blogs people have actively chosen to care enough about an issue to write about it. They have not just been accosted by a desperate journalist who wants more than anything to not be there.
Please lets stop teaching trainee journalists this horrible, outdated form of journalism.