Maybe I’ve been unlucky, or maybe I’m just more sensitive these days, but I think I’m hearing more NPR interviews with ordinary joes and janes. For example, they just ran interviews about the election with seniors. We learned that there’s this one old guy who likes Ryan because he has good values and likes America. We learned that there’s another old lady who is worried that the Republicans will weaken Medicare. Then, we learned that there are other old people with other opinions.
That is, we learned nothing. There was no statistical significance to the interviews. There were no particular insights. The most significant lesson we could learn is about what the editors at NPR think are interesting, balanced sound bites.
There are three levels of badness of “man on the street” interviews. At level one, they are journalism at its laziest. At level two, they’re ways to smuggle in opinions that the journalists are afraid to express. At level three, they’re conscious attempts to manipulate opinion through selective editing.
NPR’s interviews are “balanced,” and thus are probably only Level 1 offenders. Maybe Level 2. I wish all forms of journalism became Level 0 offenders.