Cross-posted from WNYC Radio Rookies blog:
Rookies DIY: How to do vox pop
The first in a series of videos we’re creating in partnership with the Hive NYC Learning Network, teaches people to produce their own stories using digital media. This animated short, along with the accompanying resources, will help educators teach interviewing skills to students of all ages.
One of the first skills Radio Rookies learn in our workshops is how to conduct interviews with people on the street, aka: “Vox Pop”, short for vox populi, a Latin phrase meaning “voice of the people.”
Approaching total strangers can be very scary, but in this do-it-yourself (DIY) video Radio Rookies graduates give tips and interviewing techniques that will help you be successful at getting people to answer your questions.
Educators can use this video to teach a interviewing skills — you don’t even need recording equipment!
The most important thing to emphasize is that an interview is really a CONVERSATION between two people.
Here are some suggested activities based on what tools and technology you have access to:
Paper and Pencils:
+ Have students brainstorm a list of questions they’d want to ask each other
+ Role play mock interviews for the class and have students popcorn out praise and suggestions
- Give your students these tips and tricks for getting a good interview:
- Be open to possibilities, but prepare questions before you begin.
- Stay in control of the situation.
- Introduce yourself and get the interviewee’s name, age (and contact info, if you can).
- Don’t be afraid to ask someone to repeat something.
- Ask open-ended questions. Avoid Yes-or-No questions — they lead to boring answers.
- Ask for explanations/ follow-up questions.
- Don’t talk over your interviewee. Let them finish completely before you jump in with the next question.Don’t be afraid of silence.
- Try to ask a question several different ways if you’re not getting a good answer.
- At the end of an interview always ask: “Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you’d like to say?” “Do you have any questions for me?”
Suggested Interviewing activities:
– In class: Break students into pairs and have them interview each other. Afterward students can introduce their partner to class and share something interesting they learned about them. You can assign them a specific topic to help keep the interview focused, for example: their first crush, a time they broke the rules, or a time they did something very brave.
– On the street: Have students do vox pop interviews in groups of 2-3 with people on the street, asking the same 3-5 questions of everyone they meet
– Out of school: Students can choose to interview a family member, friend or neighbor about a subject of their choice, or you can assign a topic based on material being covered in class, for example: immigration or voting rights or gun control.
Cell Phones/Digital recorders/Computer with a built-in microphone
+ If you have access to any kind of recording equipment, use it!
+ Break down these recording basics for students before you begin:
- Microphone Placement
Get in close! The mic should be a fists-distance away from the subject’s mouth, just under the chin – so that they forget it’s there
Never hand the mic over. You are the reporter, it’s your job to hold the mic. And make sure to mic yourself when you’re asking questions!
- Wear your Headphones!!
Headphones aren’t dorky, they’re professional. ALWAYS wear your headphones. (Really, we mean it. You need to hear what’s going on with your recording!)
- Avoid Unwanted Noises
Make sure your microphone is plugged in tightly and that the cords are not bouncing around – all of this will add screechy noises to your recording.
Listen through your headphones for fans, hums, radios, buzzes and jackhammers in the background. Whenever possible, avoid these situations – change location, close a window, turn off the radio/tv, etc. You’ll thank yourself later.
- Slating the Tape
Always begin every recording yourself saying who you are, where you are, what time it is, who you’re interviewing. This tape helps us set the scene and we often use it in the story.
- Keep an Eye on Your Machine!
Keep an eye on your LEVELS — make sure your recording isn’t too high or too low. What you hear in your headphones is the VOLUME, NOT the LEVELS…you’ll only know how high or low your levels are by looking at the screen on your recorder.
* And…every so often, double check to make sure that you’re still recording!
After students complete their interviews have them either record or write down their answers to these questions:
- What did you learn?
- What was frustrating?
- What would you improve on next time?
- What was the most interesting or most surprising answer that you received?
* Additional resources:
- The StoryCorps Question Generator can be helpful in preparing for an interview and the StoryCorps Lesson Plan helps teach students basic interviewing and storytelling skills.
- Audio School: An Inside Look at How Youth are Doing Radio. These guides share advice on radio production from youth producers in an audio format. Visit Transom to hear the guides or download these accompanying .pdf files on vox pops, interviewing, and how to use music effectively.
- Generation PRX Resources and community to help you teach and learn radio.
- Teen Reporters Handbook Whether you’re interviewing a neighbor, or a grandparent, or someone you’ve never met, a microphone is a passport into their lives. If you or someone in your community has a story to tell, get a microphone, a recorder, a pair of headphones, and get started.
- A Kid’s Guide to Recording Stories Helpful for kids of all ages.