How ordinary is the ordinary (wo)man on the street? An analysis of vox pop characteristics in television news
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Journalism practice. - Abingdon
, p. 1-16
University of Antwerp
Interviews with the ordinary man or woman on the street are omnipresent in television news. These vox pop interviews are used to represent the general public in the news. Several editorial and practical guidelines exist about the characteristics of a good vox pop. But what characteristics do journalists search for in vox pops in practice? This study answers this question by looking at visual and contextual characteristics of vox pop interviews as a means to gain a better understanding of which vox pops appear in the news as a representation of the entire population. We conducted a content analysis of 2000 vox pop interviews in Flanders, Belgiums Dutch-speaking region, supplemented by interviews with television journalists. We find that, despite editorial guidelines to do so, journalists hardly ever contextualize vox pop interviews by clarifying that they are not necessarily a good representation of the entire population. The results show that journalists select vox pops which are representative of age and gender, but not of minority groups such as ethnic-cultural minorities and people with disabilities. In some regards, vox pops thus provide a biased representation of the population and might influence the public to make wrongful generalizations about public opinion.