Question No. 14: “Thanks anyway…”

Ira Question | Written by Nathan Mattise

We heard the five most dreaded words in journalism education today during my web course.

“…man on the street assignment…”


It’s easy to seek out individuals because they are related to a development or because they hold a specific area of expertise. Most of those sources are more than willing to acknowledge your presence and often talk to you.

An M.O.S. piece isn’t as kind to the budding journalist. People wonder why you’re bothering them specifically, they claim to be unfamiliar with the topic at hand (even if it’s usually a global trend) and no one seems to have a minute to stop and talk.  Don’t even bother getting into the discussions about if this will air/be published and if they have to provide their name.

TAL however seems to have mastered this process. They have entire episodes that are largely based on interviews they conduct with people that aren’t special for any reason other than being present.  (My favorite radio program included). I’m sure a lot of it has to do with their resources (they send a team of reporters for hours, individuals in my class go out for 45 minutes alone) but you never hear about TAL having issues finding willing and interesting M.O.S. interview subjects.

So if you have a minute, I’d love to ask…

How do you go about approaching individuals for your M.O.S. style pieces? Do you often find a lot of resistance, are most people willing to talk after a brief explanation of who you are and what you’re doing (or do they even recognize TAL)?

Links: This American Life | The NewsHouse

E-mail us if you have a question for Ira Glass to discuss or if you have insight on this one.

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