I have done countless voxpops, but recently I have come to know what the slang term actually stands for – voice of the people. It is when you go up to the average Jane or Joe on the street and find out their opinion on a matter.
We’ve done several voxpops on Blessers, #Doekgate, the Public Protector, municipal elections and recently about the Free State. Each gets done for various reasons, either to find out what people think or for research.
They all have purpose…
However, there is a difficulty and anguishing side to voxpops that I really want to talk about, the rejection.
Newspaper journalists have it a bit easier because when they do voxpops, the person just becomes another name in the newspaper. There is no image of the person who said this opinion, especially if the person’s name happens to be John Smith, Kevin Peters or Ashley Johnson. There is a level of anonymity.
As a video based journalist, we don’t have that luxury. You are putting a face to the name and those remarks can be directly attributed to someone. You know who they are because you see their face.
That scares people, and in my experience it happens often.
When your opinion on something is directly attributed to you, you become responsible for those comments, and you need to be confident in your opinion to feel okay with it on camera.
Whenever we (those of us who do video voxpops) go out, it gets roughs, especially when recording it on a phone.
You have to put on your best people person attitude, go out and charm strangers to talk to you. This is particularly difficult if you are not in a good mood, or exhausted. Whatever you feel has to be put aside because you have a job to do.
You have to interrupt (read ambush) people on the street and sweet talk them. If you have anxiety about these things (as I do), it means you have to work yourself up to it, but still even when you do that, you experience constant rejection.
It hurts when you have been sweet talking and charming this person, and they are willing to do it, until you tell them “this will be on camera”. Sometimes you tell them this in the start, and they go off talking, but then when you press record they are like a deer caught in headlights.
Video voxpops have the added dynamic of profiling. You have to get a balance of men and women, then you need to get in various race groups, and then across age (depending on topic).
Many times I have counted people on my hands like:
“Okay, we have a white woman, an Indian guy, a coloured girl, and a black girl.
We still need an old white guy, and a black guy.”
Yet, for every person that says yes to you, 2-3 people have said no.
The rejection you experience is worse than when you see a hot person out, and try to flirt with them. In that situation you only experience rejection once or twice depending on how many people you try to flirt with.
For me, and others who endure voxpops, you experience rejection often; by the time you come back to the office, you feel like a lowest form of a human being. It also sucks when you are trying to stop one person to interview and they flat out ignore you; like you don’t even matter.
Every single time you get rejected, you can feel your insides squirm, and you want to shrink, but you just smile and say “Thank you for your time though,”
It is humbling, often humiliating, experience that I encourage everyone to do at one point. Promotions people know a bit of this when you are promoting a item on the streets, and people wish you would disappear.
No matter how often you do it, the rejection still hurts the same, and my goodness is it great for your ego (sarcasm).
It is a very unusual yet common experience.
By the time you get a person to say “Sure” you are near willing to actually kiss them.
I think the level of rejection we experience while doing voxpops is why these days we go in pairs or in a group of three. In that way you get to negotiate with your colleague.
“I got rejected by the last person; it is your turn now.”
You share the pain, and you share the joy. Everyone gets to feel equally humiliated and uplifted.
Such is the life of a voxpop.
Theo. Over and Out.