The Men On the Street Are Uninformed

Monday, June 21, 2010
I'm not really a broadcast news kind of person; I read the newspaper--some on print and some online-- and I listen to NPR. But every once and a while I end up watching the 11 o'clock local news. One of those once-in-a-whiles was the night before the nuclear summit. 

I was watching a television show, and the teasers for  the news kept repeating "How will road closings for the nuclear summit affect your morning commute? Find out at 11."

"Excellent," I thought, as I listened to a stream of motorcades go past the window, "I would love to know if it will affect my morning commute."

So, I stayed by the television to find out. I didn't even get a map of road closures. I got man on the street interviews with person after person who got to tell the television audience how they thought the road closures would affect their own personal commutes.

 First of all, viewers were not informed of where these random people lived or worked so there was no way to draw connections from their experiences to my own. Second of all, these interviews were not live; they were filmed before the road closures began, so the men and women being interviewed were guessing. Hello random person I don't know why YES I want to know whether you think it's annoying that the roads are closed. Oh, wait. I don't. I certainly don't want your inexpert opinions on whether the road closures are necessary in place of actual information about what the road closures are and how they will affect my morning.

In the end, I logged onto and found a map there.

Anyway, this is all old news. I had actually forgotten about this particular annoyance until I came across this xkcd comic:

The hover text on the comic is equally delightful: 

News networks giving a greater voice to viewers because the social web is so popular are like a chef on the Titanic who,  seeing the looming iceberg and fleeing customers, figures ice is the future and starts making snow cones. 
Comparing any news source to the Titanic makes me gloomy, but I certainly agree with the sentiment.

Bonus: Here is an interview with  a guy who  basically makes it his job to get quoted as a man-on-the-street as often as possible.  Most recently, he was first in line to get the iPad, and all sorts of news outlets and blogs dutifully reported it, though many have caught on to his antics. Back in 2003, the AP warned reporters about quoting him.

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Written Pyramids is a blog written by a journalist living and working in Washington D.C.

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