Monday, May 03, 2010

How Do They Pick People-On-The-Street Who Aren't On the Street?


I'm always amazed when a newspaper story begins with something like this:

"James Garvin of Pomona loves to watch TV, but often loses his remote control in the sofa cushions. Now there is a device that will help Garvin and others like him..."

Often there is a picture above the story of Garvin in his living room with his remote.

I always wonder, why this guy? Why Pomona? You could walk out your door and ask the first person you see, and get the same answer. How do they find these people? Why them?

The other night Ana Garcia of KNBC did a revealing investigative report about unregulated valet parking in Los Angeles. Ana Garcia has done great work in the past, and this was no exception.

But her "James Garvin" was "Fashion Designer ____________." We were told she uses valet parking all the time. Well, who doesn't in L.A.? Isn't the premise of the story that we all deal with this? So why interview this one woman?

As it happens, throughout the interview, she stood in front of a sign with her website's URL on it. I'm not accusing KNBC or Garcia of wrongdoing, but I do think such a set-up gives off a bad smell and should be avoided.

Of course, then there's the opposite end of the spectrum, and its worst offender: Janice Lieberman, The Today Show's consumer reporter. Taking the fictitious remote control story as an example, Matt Lauer will say something like, "We all know how frustrating it is to lose the remote control." He and Meredith will talk about how they do it, and Al will join in. They will tell us the segment is coming up.

When it's time, Meredith introduces the segment by saying something like, "Do you lose your remote control? We all do. Here's Janice Lieberman."

Then Janice Lieberman will say something like, "We all know how frustrating it is. You are watching TV, and you can't find the remote."

Yes. I agree. We all know. GET TO THE STORY.

But no. Invariably, Janice will then cut to five or so people-in-the-street:

"I lose my remote all the time."
"It's so frustrating when I can't find the remote."
"It's like it just disappears."
"You look and look but it's like, where is it??"
and so on.

Then comes "funny footage" of Janice juggling ten remotes. "And these days we have SO MANY remotes..."

By this time there is only one minute left for the actual story and I've changed the channel. It's as if you went into a restaurant and the waiter spent an hour suggesting you were probably hungry before giving you a menu.

Somewhere in between Ana Garcia and Janice Lieberman there has to be a sweet spot.

No comments: