Masters / The dreaded voxpop

I knew throughout most of my undergraduate degree that I wanted to study a Masters degree in magazine journalism, and I think most people around me also knew as I never really shut up about it. However, not everything has been plain sailing so far.

For every interview and feature piece, there are also parts of journalism that aren’t so fun (for me, at least). Our first proper assessed piece of work alongside our weekly news stories was to produce a voxpop.

A voxpop is essentially interviewing people on the street, asking them about a certain topic, and accompanying their opinion with their details and a photo of them.

For this assignment, we had to make sure our question was on a topic that was news-worthy. I struggled for most of the week before the deadline thinking of a question, before stumbling on an opinion piece in The Guardian about revisions to the Highway Code in order to make the roads safer for cyclists.

Now, for most of you reading, you’re probably thinking, “Well, Kirstie’s quite a confident, chatty person. Speaking to people on Cardiff high street should be no problem, right?”

Wrong. I spent the first hour traversing the streets of Cardiff barely speaking to anyone, and when I did, I stumbled over my words, almost forgot to record my interviews, and then also nearly forgot to take a photo of my interviewees. I was, in short, a wreck.

I was lucky I decided to do my voxpop with some friends, Sam and Bobbie, mostly because the pressure got to me in the form of a panic attack. I’ve not had an attack for a very long time, with my last ‘proper’ one probably being in Spain, so this freaked me out to no end. Most people felt too difficult to approach, especially when asking questions about bloody bikes, and I didn’t really know what to do with myself. 

I tried to voxpop Jack about his brunch… this was taken mere seconds before he told me to put my phone down before my food went cold #sensible

Eventually, I calmed down after a bit of a cry and several deep breaths, and when I approached my next person with the girls behind me, I think he mainly answered the question because he’d seen my panic. His answer actually made my article far better, becoming my ‘kicker quote’ to end the piece on. I’ve never been so thankful for someone’s pity.

The next day was much better, despite a hoarse voice and dragging a holdall of clothes around with me. I was back in Swansea by early afternoon, moaning about the experience to Jack, before writing up my piece. I listened back to all my interviews, trying not to gag at the sound of my own voice, and made sure that the piece ticked every box of the brief.

You see, the problem with this piece, after the dreaded interviews, was making sure everything followed the brief to the letter. If you hadn’t asked for all the specified details of name, age, occupation and location, and written them in this order, you had marks deducted. If your photos weren’t consistent – mine were all landscape with alternating left and right angles – you had marks deducted. If you didn’t have a range of sexes and ages, you had marks deducted. It took far more thought than just seeing who might look nice and approachable.

In the end, I passed the assignment with a fairly good mark, and if I’m honest, I’ve never felt so relieved over a mark in my life. I’ve also never hated an assignment so much in my life as I have the voxpop. It taught me that while I love talking to people and finding out their views and stories, I also love that being done in a much more formal setting that has been organised beforehand, researched and thought out. Basically, anything but a voxpop.

If I ever have to do one again, I’m sure you’ll hear all about it (probably through tears). And if you want to read my final piece, here it is.

Until next time, folks.

If you liked this post, let me know as I’ll happily write more about what I’m up to during my Masters and what kind of things I’m doing as part of my qualification. Give my ‘profesh’ Facebook page a like, drop me an email or just shoot me a message on any social media platforms we may be connected on. 

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