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Man on the Street — good idea?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BertoltBrecht, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. BertoltBrecht

    BertoltBrecht Member

    So by a twist of fate, I'm an editor at a very small weekly in a town of less than 7,000 people. Our editorial page is shit (state senator's columns and capital briefs), so I was thinking of ways to improve it. I've always thought all "Man on the Street"-type things were lame (beside The Onion's), but it seems like a decent idea. A friend suggested I call random city leaders once a week to ask if they wanted to write a guest column, any other ideas?

    I'm producing almost all of the content, so a non-fluff column from me is almost out of the question.
  2. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    So what made you decide they were less lame?

    If you do them, I think you need to include a mug shot and make them on a particular topic of interest.
  3. BertoltBrecht

    BertoltBrecht Member

    I'm still not sure. I know I want a more local editorial section, but I don't have time to write columns, so it's something quick, easy and local.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    I was tempted to pick every wino downtown because I wanted "Man on the Street" to be an accurate heading.
  5. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    I hated them with every fiber of my being when I was in papers and had to do them or assign them.
    So it pains me to say they were actually pretty well read and received.
    You don't want to OD on them but, when the time/subject is right, they should be used. Getting regular readers into the paper the right way isn't awful. It's just awful to have to do them.
  6. pressmurphy

    pressmurphy Member

    Man on the street stuff skips "easy" and proceeds directly to "lazy." There's never any nutritional value to 'em.
  7. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    On the other hand, what sells at the grocery story? Metamucil and soy milk or Coke and Pop Tarts?
  8. BertoltBrecht

    BertoltBrecht Member

    I may be lazy, but that doesn't change the fact I can't write any columns of substance for the editorial section.
  9. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    Substance? Cripes. No, there isn't any. It's simply, "here's what a few random folks in town are saying." Normal folks react. Much better than tying them into a story, which some papers try to do. A simple little breakout that doesn't take much space or effort and makes some of your readers go "hey, that's ME!" or "hey, that's Bubba from the third trailer down!"
    Big deal.
    Guys who bitched about 'em when I was doling the rare MOTS out got the next one, too. STFU, grab the point and shoot and go spend 30 minutes on the corner.
  10. copperpot

    copperpot Well-Known Member

    I'd pretty much echo this. I've worked at a few papers with some basic question of the week formats that ran with mug shots ... damned if I didn't read them all every week.

    My college paper did one once asking people what they were going to do over the summer and one of the respondents was a dog, who said, "Sniff people's butts."

    Ah, college. (Note this was after I graduated, haha)
  11. WFW, Moddy. As much as I hated doing them, they always rated well among readers.

    The trick is not to ask anything that requires much knowledge from the man on the street or else you'll be out there all day.
  12. Moderator1

    Moderator1 Moderator Staff Member

    We did one once and a young woman used the word "diversity" in her answer and the brass went nuts. Loved it, loved it, even though it was totally the wrong word for the subject at hand and didn't fit the rest of her answer.

    But I stick to my story. Suck 'em up, within reason.

    Lots of people are now doing "man on the street" video for the Web.
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