The Black Helicopter

Random ramblings

Vox Plebis?

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C is for Cookie...

Next on my list of media annoyances is the extensive use of worthless and usually quite ridiculous vox pop segments in “news” reporting. They’re fine if what you are after are the opinions of the people; why the baggy pants and saggy ass? Did Michael Jackson really die, or is he in Shamballah with Elvis? Who will win the World Cup? (on the last question, we should actually ask Paul the Psychic Octopus, which impressively has his own wikipedia page already). But the value in news reporting and especially analytical journalism seems really limited, and more akin to populist infotainment scared of experts.

The worst vox pop segments are the ones repeating what the journalist just said. “Everybody like ice-cream when it’s hot” – we don’t need three faces confirming that fact. And these segments are increasingly common in analytical journalism, especially on politics. I vaguely remember reading a critical newspaper article stating that reporting today was less about informing the people and more about confirming what the people already know (reference, anyone?). So, less experts and more vox pops. Less demasking of power and more pseudo-democratic “free speech”. Vox Plebis. Cheaper and less valid, but vastly more “entertaining” and “engaging”.

Other types are the “expert” and “illusory eye-witness account” vox pops. Yesterday 3 alledged terrorists were arrested on behalf of the Norwegian Intelligence Services. Apparently they planned something, perhaps even an attack on an oil rig. So the news go ask the people what to make of it… which is of course platitudes, prejudices and uninformed opinions. Next, they ask the neighbors how one of the terrorists acted… which is exactly the same way any serial killer or child pornography mastermind has acted: inconspicuous, everyday, with as little ripples as possible. Nobody expected him to be anything other than a kind father, husband or neighbor. The same thing was said about Rudolf Höss, Josef Fritzl and Ted Bundy. And we wouldn’t really expect the (successful) serial killer or terrorist to act in any other way, would we? While I continuously hope for the one vox pop stating: “yes, he was up at odd hours, the whole block smelled of sulphur and he subscribed to Al Qaeda Illustrated” or just “yes, he looked really crazy“, I understand that that is never going to happen, because he would have been caught!

Please – in nine out of ten cases, vox pops are just a waste of valuable media time. Pollution. Not proof of anything but selective news casting. If anything, replace stupid old women and confused shoppers with Paul the Octopus. The betting pool is getting really high.


Written by Jesper

July 10, 2010 at 16:40

5 Responses

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  1. And if none of this works, they’ll resort to hypothesis journalism: Have a reporter stand outside of, say, the soccer arena and guess at which soccer team is going to win the match. It’s no expert’s assessment, but a simple question of one mostly unqualified journalist’s opinion. Similarly, a reporter may guess what Obama might be saying behind the walls of the White House in the distance behind the journalist.

    Neither provides any news nor information but nonetheless appears to be what the viewers want.


    July 10, 2010 at 16:49

  2. Asking humans for their opinions is a waste of time anyway. News broadcasts should have more Basset hounds.

  3. I fucking HATE voxpop. It is number 2 on my “List of reasons I don’t watch TV”.

    What do I CARE what some effin’ guy on the street thinks about *anything*? Ask someone with knowledge in the relevant field for fuckssake.

    If I wanted to know what the guy on the street thinks, I’d try to imagine the dumbest, most inane response possible and then strip it of content, meaning or reason.

    Argh, Mighty and Illustrious Jabba, you have me fuming!


    July 11, 2010 at 02:55

    • Mightiest Niels… I’ll bite. What’s reason no. 1?


      July 11, 2010 at 12:17

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