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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Saturday, April 04, 2009

"Man on Street" Interviews Not Good Idea in Allentown

"Don't take my picture. Hey, don't take my picture, man."

That's the first response I received this afternoon while trying to conduct a "man on the street" interview in downtown Allentown. Standing at 9th & Hamilton, I wanted Allentown residents to tell me how they feel about their city. But the first person I approached with my videocam nearly ripped off my head. Then he walked into a pawn shop with his mom.

My second subject, a young woman with a little child, blurted "I don't want to talk to you" before I could say a word. She quickly moved away, glancing nervously over her shoulder at me once or twice.

Finally, I saw two young men walking down Hamilton. As I began talking, they just said "Not interested" and walked away.

Maybe they all know me.

36 comments:

Monkey Momma said...

Well, this begs many questions. What were you wearing? How did you approach these people? You aren't known on the blogosphere for your tact and charm (sorry, it's true) so maybe that was a hindrance on your man-on-the-street interview. Were you all by yourself or did you have an assistant? How many folks did you try to approach?

Hamilton is much different on a Saturday versus a weekday. The whole thing changes - maybe that's what you were going for on this. Plus, it's freakin' windy and cold out today - maybe folks didn't want to chit chat in the freezing cold.

Sorry your experiment didn't work out, but it sounds like you needed some more street credibility to get things going. I'm sure J. Black or Alfonso Todd (aren't they one and the same???) could've done these interviews w/ no prob. Good luck next time, though!

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What were you wearing?"

Speedos.

"How did you approach these people?"

I ran at each one of them.

"You aren't known on the blogosphere for your tact and charm (sorry, it's true) so maybe that was a hindrance on your man-on-the-street interview."

Moi? Maybe the "Hey asshole" approach wasn't the best.

"Were you all by yourself or did you have an assistant?"

Do you know anyone in their right mind who would stand next to me in downtown Allentown?

"How many folks did you try to approach?"

Three swings were all I took. I thought on a Saturday afternoon, some folks might have time to talk to me. I really, really, really, really, really tried to be nice. Really.

I've got just as much street creds as J Black or Alfonso. Those dudes got nothing on me. I'll be trying again.

Monkey Momma said...

Well, good luck trying again. You just need some props to look official. A camcorder strapped to your speedo ain't gonna do it. (Were you wearing more than one speedo, hence the plural?)

Why don't you go hang out in front of the Brew Works??? Or, are the Fegleys only letting you get as close as the PP&L plaza?

J. BLACK said...

"Street credibility" - What exactly is that and does it have any TRUE value??? I believe Bernie can do these interviews but he has to be less like a reporter and more like an advocate. For example, have something to give to the kids; strike up a conversation before asking questions or filming; and lastly, EXPECT alot of rejection. There are many people who have ALOT to say, you just have to keep digging until you find them.


-J.

Anonymous said...

In Allentown's defense, man-on-the-street interviews are pretty hit-or-miss (mostly miss) anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

The 69NEWS interviews from this area are not much better.

Scott Armstrong

Bernie O'Hare said...

"EXPECT alot of rejection."

Dude, I used to date.

LVCI said...

Check the posters out in the Post office 1st. You need to shimmy up the pole where the rest of the cameras are. Sorry just being insolent. I myself would have taken a pass as well. Maybe if you had an attractive female with you people would feel more comfortable. Who knows.

Seriously though.. I don't think WFMZ has done a street report in downtown Allentown since their news van & crew came under threat when they did that report of the child bring hit by a police cruiser a few months ago. In fact they back tracked with an on air apology. And mostly dropped reporting anything LIVE in downtown Allentown.

Anyone else see them do any since then?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"(Were you wearing more than one speedo, hence the plural?)"

You got me.

"have something to give to the kids;"

Are you nuts? They'd throw me in the slammer faster than Alfonso can promote a concert. Maybe that's part of your evil plan.

Anonymous said...

People are not as dumb as you think Bernie.

These folks are smart enough to know that there time is more valued than your little ego and liberal agenda.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Little ego?

Ny the way, it's "their," not "there." People may not be as dumb as I think, but you are.

Politically Neutral said...

Having lived in Allentown for many years and having a long history working with people in the city, I am not surprised by what you met.

We are not oddities who are subject to the whims of any "social scientist" making their presence with a camera.

My response would have been similar. If you want to talk to people in Allentown and find out what is going on you are going to need to contact people who can assist you in putting together a group to talk with.

What is the camera about anyway? People do not want to feel exploited. Bringing out a camera when you are not the Channel 69 puts people on the defensive.

Maybe they all know you? Don't take it personal I really do not think they care. I doubt if I would if you approached me.

Slamming a camera in someones face is not taken as an act of respect. Whether we walk into pawn shops or bakeries we all have our dignity.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The reason for the camera was so that people could see for themselves what people were saying as opposed to reading a report in which they have to take my word for it.

I sure as hell do not consider myself a social scientist and as far as saying they probably know me, that was meant as a joke.

Your claim that this is an act of rudeness is something I'll have to consider. I see that point. Perhaps it would be better to do it a little differently. I'm not exactly known for my tact.

Monkey momma said...

Well, you've just got to try this again, Bernie. I like PN's "panel" idea. But it ruins the spontenaity, I know.

The thing is, Allentonians who frequent downtown are used to seeing crazy white guys talking to themselves on the street. There's no way they could know that you are kind of legitamite in asking their opinions about A-town - they just think you look like another speedo-wearing loony-toon.

It should be fun to read a post after you score some interviews. Good luck!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Politically Neutral makes a valid point. I probably came on too strong. I certainly meant no disrespect, but I can see how someone might feel insulted.

Of course, I will try again, but will be more mellow about it.

michael molovinsky said...

when jarrett renshaw started doing video's i asked him if he was auditioning for a job at channel 69. admittedly i'm technologically challenged, but bloggers should decide if they want to be a newspaper or a tv station .(i want to be neither) bernie, i'm afraid most of the people walking on hamilton on a saturday afternoon are more in a survival mode than anything else. if you cannot afford a female assistant, consider dressing in drag, you might get more response

Anonymous said...

Mike M., has jokes today!!! HE IS ON FIRE!! But seriously, Monkey Momma is right about the type of White guys we are used to seeing in downtown A-town. If they are not the "po-po" or "suited and booted",
they are the fella's wondering aimlessly in the street or sitting on the benches with a blank stare looking like a thousand miles of bad road. Oh, and don't forget the rockers, head bangers and emo-dudes who come for the occasional concerts at Croc Roc.
Bernie, let me introduce you to the manager of Sneakervilla. Alfonso did an interview with with him and it can be seen at www.lifestylesofthegss.piczo.com . As you'll see, he's a cool dude and he gets traffic DAILY from the Allentown community. And I KNOW he would allow you to sit in the warmth of the store and ask the customers questions about the City and their thoughts and opinions on different topics. And I guarantee alot of the customers would be more comfortable and more willing to get on camera with you. The manager, Scott, is very low key but is 100% for the City and sponsors alot of local events and activites. Let me know...

P.S. For a real look on how easy it is to get A-towners on camera, see www.fiveminutesoffame.piczo.com .
It's kind of raw, but VERY real. Some of you all may be pleasantly surprised with the poetical verbage used.

-J.

Bernie O'Hare said...

J,

"a blank stare looking like a thousand miles of bad road."

Gritty and poetic. I never heard or read that expression. I'm sure glad you're blogging.

I'll be in touch in a few weeks. This was a rare weekend in which I had time for me. That won't be the case again until mid May.

I will check out the site you mention.

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy this blog and your style, Bernie. But lets face it: Allentown is frightening and you look a little creepy. Most of us are taught at an early age not to talk to strangers - especially creepy strangers. I believe candy would have made things worse. No slam intended here. I wouldn't talk to me, either.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,

Why is it that people in Bethlehem will allow themselves to get hooked up to a "mini-lie detector" and GPS device and wander around the streets of the South Side and North Side - see articles in today's Morning Call and yesterday's Express-Times - and register their feelings about the City for a "Bio-mapping" project? Do you think the folks you encountered in Allentown would have let you do that? Just a big difference in the two cities and the way people feel about themselves and their towns.

Additionally, Channel 69 News is always on the streets of Bethlehem doing interviews. Their camera truck and reporters spend as much time on the streets of Bethlehem as a City Public Works crew - that may be setting the City up for a "cheap shot," but the intention was that it is "frequently."

With apologies to one of the earlier posters, but, "what a difference a few miles of bad road makes."

Sad For Allentown

Politically Neutral said...

Personally I do not think creepy looks so bad.

It is all in the process. When I had occasion to be collecting signatures on Hamilton St I found most of the residents open, interested, willing to talk and refreshingly challenging.

If I had a camera I do not think I would have gotten the same results.

If you approach individuals sincerely and with the respect we all are entitled to you will be successful. You have to be honest about what your intent is.

Today though I think your camera is an obstacle. You are trying to engage them in what they see as uneven exchange i.e. exploited.

A form of a focus group is a good way not the only way. Informal interviews where you actually hang around Hamilton St. and start up conversations is another, but not a good idea to quote people.

Not everyone wants their fifteen minutes of fame.

I remember going to a city planning event and being at a table with a local blogger. The blogger took much of what was said at the table, from the table work group and published it on her blog a few hours later. She did not disclose her intent or ask permission.

It is called exploitation.

That was a very manipulative and selfish act. To this day I have no respect for that person. I also never returned to the planning sessions and let my reasons be known.

You want to quote a person on any level, ask them, even if your intent is not to state their name.

Politically Neutral said...

Just saw J.s comments. I assume you are new.

Welcome to the blog I think you have much to learn.

Especially how you and Monkey Momma refer to me and my fellow residents of Allentown.

It will be interesting to see how you evolve or just become a part of Allentown's history.

But for the grace of God.........

J. BLACK said...

Politically N.,

It's all good! We all have our own views of A-town. I, myself, am a resident and have resided here for a minute and may know just a little more than you may think.
It's true, I may have alot to learn and the good thing is that I am willing to listen to you and all of the others who have opinions, facts, etc in the blogosphere and beyond... But make no mistake, if I have a difference of opinion, IT WILL BE KNOWN. I am not holding my tongue (or keyboard, in this case) for anyone !
Well, time for my morning 7 mile run and the sun is out on this beautiful morning ! A good blog comment, a good response, good opinions, I believe it will be a good day !

-J.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's a great idea. Bernie O'hare on a corner passing out Hershey Kisses. "Hey little boy, do you feel safe in Allentown?"
Pawlowski's paratroopers would be on you in a heartbeat!

as for Molovinsky's in drag comment, I suggest you get Scott Armstrong to stand beside you at the corner of 11th and Linden by the Mayor's house. That should illicit a few interesting responses. That's Scott's stomping grounds, so maybe people would be more willing to talk to you.
I hear Pink is a calming color, get that color of a mumu and a matching lipstick, I'm sure you will draw quite the crowd!

Anonymous said...

One may noy not want to hang out at 11Th and Linden for long for any reason, myself included.

Scott Armstrong

Monkey momma said...

"Especially how you and Monkey Momma refer to me and my fellow residents of Allentown." - Pol. Neut.

I didn't mean to imply that ALL or even most of the white folks downtown are crazy. I'm just saying that downtown on Hamilton, one will frequently see white guys who look (and truly are) nuts. Anybody who's been downtown in the last decade knows this is true. It's certainly not true that I would characterize all the white folks downtown as crazy, though - just a few standout characters that definitely have a presence downtown. And, obviously, lunacy knows no racial boundaries - mental illness is evident in all populations of any town.

Allentown is a city, and any city has its fair share of weirdos. That's one of the things I love about cities! After all, it's not the crazy people we fear in Allentown, it's the thugs. And thug life knows no racial boundaries, either.

I would definitely agree that respect and tolerance and a totally open mind are required before a "Man on the Street" interview could be successfully conducted. I would fail in conducting such an interview, since I obviously have already formed opinions about downtown, based on my past decade spent downtown.

All Bernie needs to do is change out of his rainbow of speedos outfit, get a cute assistant or two, and he'll probably have a lot more success!

Juan and Julio said...

Bernie, you did approach me and my boys but we thought you were a crack dealer and "just said no"Anyway, the bloods own that corner and we didn't want any triuble

Anonymous said...

bernie says.. "Little ego?

Ny the way, it's "their," not "there." People may not be as dumb as I think, but you are.

7:25 PM" Don't start that spelling thing again because you are going to fail. By the way,it's not spelled
"Ny", it's spelled "By".

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I remember going to a city planning event and being at a table with a local blogger. The blogger took much of what was said at the table, from the table work group and published it on her blog a few hours later. She did not disclose her intent or ask permission.

"It is called exploitation.

"That was a very manipulative and selfish act. To this day I have no respect for that person. I also never returned to the planning sessions and let my reasons be known.

"You want to quote a person on any level, ask them, even if your intent is not to state their name."


PN,

I get what you say about not rushing up to someone w/ a camera. I think I could have done it differently. Yeah, I am obnoxious and couold always use lessons in manners. But as far as not quoting anyone on any level without their permission, we disagree. The expolitation charge is baloney, too.

You think I was on Hamilton in my speedo to exploit people in downtown Allentown. Quite the opposite. I was there to empower them, to give them a voice, an opportunity to say what they think. I don't think we get a lot of that.

You even claim I should never use something someone tells me, even if he is unidentified, without his permission. The very first sentence of my post is a quote. I do not consider that manipulation or exploitation either. Since the person is unidentified, it is necessarily impossible that I am exploiting that person. And using a quote is more accurate and often makes for more interesting reading.

If I'm in a personal conversation, I would not use it w/o permission. But in a public meeting or setting, it's all fair.

That planning meeting, so far as I know, was a public meeting. I also don't consider it manipulation or exploitation to report what happens there.

AJ and I both attended a similar kind of meeting about stopping hate in A-town. I wrote two or three blogs and he wrote one, too. We made it clear why we were there and a reporter actually was there and wrote her own report from her own little group. It was a public meeting.

You may resent that, but I think you are being a bit too sensitive and suspicious. Based on the restrictions you impose, it would be nearly impossible to tell anyone what is going on about anything. Too much goes wrong bc there is no public spotlight.

PN, you also tell J he has much to learn. We all have much to learn. You are not exempt. Neither am I.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Don't start that spelling thing again because you are going to fail. By the way,it's not spelled "Ny", it's spelled "By"."

There's a difference between typos and some idiot who does not know the grammatical difference between "there" and "their."

Anonymous said...

Did you ever think that some of the people were intimidated by the video camera. Some of these people may be wanted crimminals and not want to be on camera.
Maybe they thought you were a set-up to get their pictures and information.

Many of the downtown inhabitants have warrents for one thing or another. Many unsavory people and you looked like either one of the crazy white guys or a setup for the law.

Anonymous said...

At least you were free to try.

If you attempted this at Broad and Main or 4th & New in Bethlehem you would be threatened with arrest, I have seen it happen.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 3:27....or many of the people may have been illegals and thought Bernie was ICE>

Anonymous said...

Politically Neutral said:

"If you want to talk to people in Allentown and find out what is going on you are going to need to contact people who can assist you in putting together a group to talk with."


Yes, Bernie, that's exactly what we need!

Another "randomly" selected committee/group that City Hall could organize (with all the usual suspects) to tell everyone how much Allentown is improving.

How dare you for trying to actually get some real feedback from real citizens.

atown-liker said...

Sorry for blowing you off but my mom was really mad about her dentures & wanted them back asap.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot and these people can see straight through you.

You wanted to stop these folks in the street to put down the place where they live. Doing so is the same as directly putting them down.

Who would waste their time to do such a thing? You look like the fool now.