Whatever you call them, “man on the street” interviews are a staple of TV news. Done well, they can reflect public opinion on important issues in your community. Done badly, they’re just a waste of air time. So how do you shoot them well?
Start by thinking very carefully about where to go. Many stations tend to collect vox pops at the same location, day in and day out, because it’s close by, has lots of foot traffic, and they don’t need permission to shoot. The parking lot of a strip mall often fits the bill. But there’s no way of telling if you’ll find anyone who actually has something to say about the topic at hand. If you wind up having to explain the story at length before you can get anyone to comment, you’re probably in the wrong place.
Choose a location where people are likely to have some connection to the issue you’re covering. Public transit? Try a bus stop or a parking garage. The price of organic food? Outside a grocery store. You get the idea. Location matters!
As for the “how-to” part of shooting M-O-S interviews, here’s a video tutorial produced at Sheridan College in Canada (where they call these types of interviews “streeters”).
If you’re one of those reporters who finds it difficult to walk up to complete strangers and ask them to talk on camera, know that you aren’t alone. Keep trying. And when you need a pep talk, read this advice from Julie McCann of J-Source.