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Vox Pops

The term "vox pop" comes from the Latin phrase vox populi, meaning "voice of the people". The vox pop is a tool used in many forms of media to provide a snapshot of public opinion. Random subjects are asked to give their views on a particular topic and their responses are presented to the viewer/reader as a reflection of popular opinion.

For video and television vox pops, the interviewer approaches people "in the street" and asks them simple questions about the topic. These people will be new to interviews and will often be nervous, flustered, giggly, etc. It's therefore important to make them feel comfortable and relaxed.

When asking people to participate, fast is best - don't give them time to worry about how they look or what their friends will think. Use a short, sharp standard question such as "Would you mind answering a couple of quick questions about genetically modified food for TV3 news tonight?". (Note: Everyone will want to know what channel you're with and when the programme will be broadcast, so it helps to get that out of the way quickly.)

As always, ask open-ended questions and avoid leading questions. At the same time, you must be specific enough to obtain brief answers.

Camera shots are usually framed as an MCU or close up. It's important to think about the guest's looking direction, and get an equal number of left-facing and right-facing subjects. These can then be alternated in post-production. Some producers go so far as to get all answers with a particular opinion facing one way, and answers with an opposing opinion facing the other way. Whether or not you think this is effective is up to you — you may feel that it is too contrived.

It pays to ensure that an accurate mix of genders and races are represented, appropriate to the population being surveyed.


Here's an example of how some vox pops can add interest to a news item on genetically modified foods. At some point in the story the journalist would say something like "meanwhile, public opinion is still divided..."
The following sequence is then inserted:

"I think we need more research. I think we've seen this product arrive on our shelves in a tearing hurry, without any long-term case histories available for us to look at any possible harm." voxpop 1
"I think it will be better in the short term, but in the long run it will promote more diseases, some inherited ones like cancer or something like that." voxpop 2
"I don't actually have that much of a problem with it. I think that basically science enters every part of our existence anyhow. Scientists have been genetically modifying animals and things since the beginning of time, so no, I don't have much of a problem with it." voxpop 3
"I don't really have a problem with it myself. I mean, it's coming up to the year 2000, the new millennium, we're going to have new changes, aren't we? People have got to get used to it. If they don't like that, if they can't stand the change, well... get out of the way and let those who can stand the change look after it." voxpop 4
"I'd prefer not to have it, not to use any of it, but I'm not sure what's been altered and what hasn't." voxpop 5

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