General Journalism

Vox Popping in the Rain… By Madalina Ciobanu

 ..is not for the faint hearted. I am currently in my 4th week as a Journalism student and I’ve gotten used to the fact that throughout this year, University in general and most important, this career, I will be obliged to set my fears and shyness aside. Fear of speaking in public – check. Avoiding doing surveys and questionnaires on the street- check. But little did I know that all of the above would have to be bottled up in such a short time. Last Monday, for our Newsgathering workshop, we were asked to team up in groups of at least 3 people and we were assigned a specific area of Bristol. We had two hours to obtain three Vox Pops and three NIBs (News in Brief) each, as diversified as possible ( i.e. no interviewing students only).

As soon as we set off to complete our tasks, it started pouring rain. Naturally, this is the UK after all. We’d been told that our vox pops may be rescheduled for another day if the rain started, but no such thing happened. So, sporting a nasty cold and no umbrella, I proceeded to stalk people on the street, and tried to figure out by the look on their faces which one would be willing to stop and chat for a couple of minutes.

As I walked up and down on the wet sidewalk, being rejected by no less than six people (both in a polite and rude manner) , I started thinking about whether or not I have what it takes to do these kinds of things. I felt embarrassed at first, when I heard the excuses they were making up in order to get away from me and my purple notebook (although I couldn’t exactly blame them, I used to be the same). But as the rain kept dripping from my hair, I grew annoyed. People have a twisted perception of journalists or even students that are taking such a path and they believe the only reason why you must stop them on the street is because you want to ask them for money. Whenever I introduced myself as a journalism student , their immediate response was : ‘Ok, and what are you trying to do?’.

I encountered some polite and cheerful people as well , so by the end of the session I had my three vox pops: two students ( one of them was International, so I figured it was still diversified) and a 72 year-old retired man, who was kind enough to allow me to take a picture of him. The question we had to ask them was ‘ What is the best and worst thing about Bristol? ‘ , together with their full name, age, occupation and address. Our tutor warned us that we might have problems with convincing people to let us take their picture, but it worked out fine for me, thankfully!

Scouting the perimeter for nibs was much more difficult. There wasn’t much going on in the area, especially not ‘people-related’ things. Our group took a well deserved coffee break in a nearby Costa Coffee (it was still raining), courtesy of our tutor, while we discussed our vox popping experience and the nibs ideas we had so far. An hour later, we decided to call it a day and keep an eye out for possible nib stories in our respective neighbourhoods, before bringing them to the copy clinic (that’s what our Newsgathering seminar is called) on Wednesday.

By noon time on Wednesday, I was as happy as a clam  – I had managed to come up with three nibs, both original and in the public interest, which my tutor approved of. They were about a bookstore that sells new books for only £2, a bus service/route being shut down and the National Chocolate Week (this was more for my personal taste, but I figured who wouldn’t enjoy reading about chocolate goodies in a newspaper?).

All in all, my first real journalistic experience wasn’t that bad , as soon as I pulled all the  stops and stopped being shy and embarrassed. Next task at hand – film an interview!

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