Monday, September 05, 2011

September 11 retrospective: more PBS person-on-the-street interviews on 9/11

This is the third day in a row I've been posting these short videos from PBS Newshour's YouTube channel. I've been partially making fun of them. But except for the ones who come across as outright bigots, I'm not making fun of them so much as the person-on-the-street format. They are at least asking the same set of questions to everyone, it seems. But the questions are things like whether the person thinks the 9/11 attacks "changed everything." It's too general a question to get much of any kind of interesting perspective from someone who's not used to doing TV interviews. If it were followed up with questions like, what do you see different about politics now? What do you think has changed for the better? What has changed for the worse?, that would likely get more meaningful responses.

If the ones posted on YouTube are any measure, a lot of people tended to focus on their obvious encounters with airport security. That would be interesting in itself if there were some kind of representative sample and follow-up questions were used. Are the subjects aware of the massive warrantless NSA spying on e-mails? Are they aware that the FBI can get a person's library records without the slightest evidence or criminal activity?

But without some systematic treatment and organization, we get essentially a series of informal and often poorly-informed chatter.

A middle-aged Texas Latina, short version: Ah'm gone vote for Rick Perry 'cause ah hate Muslims.

This Texas lady doesn't have much distinctive to say, but she comes off as a very sympathetic person:

Why would you ask someone under 25 if the US is safer now that before 9/11? Unless you ask them for specifics that would indicate they actually know something about it, you get general stuff like this:

Or like this:

Not that uniformed responses are restricted to younger people, though.

Then there are a series of interviews with serving military and emergency-response personnel. But what should you expect to get in an interview like this but fairly conventional safe responses?

That's what they get here from the emergency response fellow who seems like a very pleasant guy:

Same with this firefighter who sounds like a nice fellow:

Here, they interview a woman who works in public relations for the US Army. You've got to be kidding me! She talks about her personal career path since 9/11; she's not spouting some Pentagon propaganda. But she's not saying that much either, and if you're listening closely to doesn't make entire sense. Her response is about how her career changed since 9/11, and winds up saying she's now doing the same thing she was back then. Say what?

Here we have a National Guardsman giving superficial but sensible enough response to questions that practically beg for a superficial response:

Here's one that illustrates what a lazy form of journalism this is. It's a man in Texas obviously not fully fluent in English. He actually sounds like he has some substantive opinions on the questions he's asked, maybe more so than most of the others whose responses are posted. But it would have taken some follow up questions to get them articulated clearly.

I like this young woman in the next one. She shows that would can say something at least a bit meaningful while you're answering lame questions from lazy journalists:


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