M-O-S. In the news business this acronym means “man on the street” and for years these have been four of the dirtiest works in TV news. Man on the street interviews have been used for years as a means of getting opinions on various subjects from “real people” with varying opinions. To fully understand the creation of the MOS interview, we need to get back in time to the 1970’s when local TV news was king (yes, see Ron Burgundy). Local news had a nasty habit of filling stories with sound bites from lots of “official” type people like police, city counsel and politicians. Some consultant some where was paid a lot of money to find out how TV news could be more interesting to the viewing public. One of the research nuggets from public feedback was that news stories had too much focus on officials and not enough “real people”.
Of course, as TV news always does, they took the idea and ran with it and inevitably took it too far; filling every single news story with some random person’s opinion on any subject of controversy. The MOS interview was born, and lived a very long life within TV news stories across America and beyond:
“Did you get MOS for your story, Rich?. Yes, boss, I did. Are both sides of the story represented? You bet boss!”
Now lets put this into context: Reporters and Photographers hate MOS. Why? First and foremost, it’s a pain in the ass. You have to find random people to talk with and explain why you need their opinion for the story. Many of the people you run into have no interest in doing an interview so you spend a good chunk of your day just finding people willing to do it. Secondly, there is no guarantee any of those people will speak in usable sound bites with a well thought out opinion on the subject at hand. Thirdly, in many journalists humble and honest opinion, their random thoughts add nothing to the story at hand and do not accurately represent the public’s overall opinion of any topic. Fourth, did I mention that during this gathering process there is good chance the crew will be kicked off the property? That’s true. Most places like shopping centers and malls and other private properties have a “no media on-site without permission” policy. MOS sucks big time.
That’s why I am thrilled to report that the MOS interview appears to dead! That’s right, breaking news right here: Local and national TV news outlets appear to have left the traditional man on the street interview and instead are trolling Twitter and gathering opinion-based tweets for their newscasts. By now you have probably already seen them. You have to love the digital world. No crew required. Simply troll Twitter, copy and paste the tweet into a graphic, and boom! You have a perfectly good digital version of MOS.
Good riddance man on the street interview. You will not be missed.