In my reporting career, I was blessed that I didn’t have to do too many “man-on-the-street” interviews. (Sorry, but “person on the street” has never taken off.) Oh, I did my share of Black Friday shopping stories and Christmas Eve shopping stories and “who-are-you-voting-for” stories, but I wouldn’t consider them a staple of my reporting diet. I always had an assigned beat so I could usually come up with something better to do.
Besides, I despised the things. They’re so fake. Tell people you’re working on a story about X and you want their opinion on it. The result is that you write a story quoting five or six people, usually trying to represent “both sides.” Does the reader learn anything? No.
I’m embarrassed to say that in my early days as an editor, I assigned man-on-the-street interviews. The paper had to be filled, after all. But once I became the editor of the paper, I not only didn’t assign such a vacuous story — I had other vacuous stories to assign — but I discouraged other editors from doing them.
The best example of why appeared on Jimmy Kimmel last night.
(H/t Suzanne Tobias)