Man on the Street: The Match Game

Gotta love the man-on-the-street story: the classic connector of readers to the thoughts and feelings of their fellow citizens. Not only is the journalistic form, in this age of abundantly cataloged public and private opinion, apparently not an anachronism; on the contrary, it is alive and well and walking among us, to inform and bewilder at once.

To wit, this Reuters article (lede: “NEW YORK - The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to President Barack Obama had many puzzled Americans scratching their heads”), which collects reaction to President Obama’s Nobel win from a delightfully, if rather confusingly, miscellaneous cross-section of Americans—including a former president, a financial investor, and an opera singer. Diversity! Below, see if you can match the MOS with his or her reaction to the Nobel nod.

People on the Street:

1. Claire Sprague, 82, a retired English professor (interviewed while walking her dog in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village)

2. Itya Silverio, 33, of Brooklyn

3. Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter

4. Robert Schultz, 62, a retired civil servant and Vietnam veteran

5. William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College in Atlanta and author of a forthcoming book on Obama

6. Haag Sherman, director of Houston-based investment firm Salient Partners

7. Opera singer Carissa March, 30 years old


A). “My first opinion is that he got it because he’s black. What did he do that was so great? He hasn’t even finished office yet.”

B).”Largely left leaning U.S. leaders have been recent recipients of that award. It will clearly be viewed as political by the right. It illustrates that the U.S. is still the prevalent power in the world and that the world really is seeking engagement with the United States.”

C). “It would be wonderful if I could think why he won. They wanted to give him an honor I guess but I can’t think what for.”

D). “It looks less like an objective award than it does a political endorsement. Guantanamo is not closed yet and it makes it difficult for him to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan.”

E). “It is a bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment to peace and harmony in international relations.”

F). “For doing what? The guy hasn’t solved any conflict anywhere so how can he win the peace prize? But if we don’t reelect him the next go around we will all look like idiots because the world has anointed him.”

G). “Although he’s trying to open up talks with nations we haven’t spoken with we haven’t had enough time to see if it’s worked. Sometimes when things like this happen it forces people to view things more positively so hopefully other leaders around the world will take (the talks) a little more seriously and open up more.”

1. C; 2. A; 3. E; 4. F; 5. D; 6. B; 7. G

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Megan Garber is an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University. She was formerly a CJR staff writer.