Talking To Strangers

Halfway through Rockbridge Report (beat reporting course) last term at Washington and Lee, Professor Kevin Finch encouraged us to do man-on-the-street interviews, a staple of TV news in which passers-by are asked to comment on anything and everything. Needless to say, this was the worst idea of the century. Man-on-the-street interviews are so painfully awkward and so incredibly unenjoyable. I tried and failed to do them a few times before I quit. I’d prefer to take a lower grade than risk humiliation–which made watching my classmate Myers as she tried to interview South African students about protest art so much fun for me. The University of the Witwatersrand campus is at the center of the “fees must fall” movement and spinoff protests over everything from rising tuition to women’s and gay rights. Myers must have asked six groups of people how they felt about the graffiti art in the tunnel we were standing in on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand. Only one young woman stopped to chat, and her answer was not what Myers wanted. The Wits student hadn’t noticed the artwork until Myers had pointed it out. It may be mean-spirited, but watching Myers suffer through her first man-on-the-street interviews was almost rewarding. There was something about her persistence that was hilarious. And while Myers blushed when we teased her later, she said she was going to try again tomorrow.
–Caroline Boras