Mastering the Street Interview

NBCU Academy 101

How do you do a street interview? “Person on the street” interviews, also called “man on the street” interviews, “MOS,” or “vox pops,” are ways for journalists for get public opinion on a particular topic or eyewitness accounts of major events. NBC News Correspondent Vaughn Hillyard talks about his tips and tricks to get people to open up to journalists.

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Are you looking for the public’s opinion on a particular topic or eyewitness accounts to major events? You might want to get some street interviews.

One of the most prominent ways we use “person on the street” interviews is to gauge public interest in political candidates. We interview folks at campaign events to ask what they think about the candidates. And you try to track if there are similar themes in what people are telling you. 

An important thing to remember about a street interview is that it shouldn’t be the backbone and entire basis of your reporting. You should still rely on public officials, experts and data when available.

When you’re interviewing people, focus on the “five W’s and one H” – who, what, when, where, why and how. Get their name and how they spell it, maybe some demographic information about them if it’s relevant like age, what they do for work and what neighborhood or city they live in.  

Be inclusive and interview people of different ethnic backgrounds, genders, and if it’s political reaction, from different parties with differing views. You want a good mix of participants and viewpoints when doing street interviews and the producer and reporter must ensure that. 

Here are some things to avoid when doing street interviews:

  1. Don’t ask too many complex questions – leave complicated questions to subject matter experts or public officials.  
  2. Don’t argue with folks or try to change their mind if you’re polling public opinion. You’re there to listen. 
  3. Don’t take up too much of the person’s time! 
  4. Don’t run up to folks and just stick a mic and camera in their face. Talk to them like humans. Introduce yourself first, then if they consent to being interviewed, bring in the camera.