Yesterday I got a call from a market research firm who wanted to ask about my TV habits. It was the end of the day and I was just waiting it out til dinner time, so I figured what the hell. I’m always curious to hear about what other people are doing, research-wise, if only to give me the chance to feel smugly superior. It was a survey about watching local news. Now, I don’t know which channels are showing news at which times, nor do I watch anything with much regularity. Like many folks, I won’t change the channel after a show, and then the news comes on while I clean up and go to bed, or something. Anyway, detailed questions ensued
How many days a week do you watch any part of a local TV news show between 4 and 7?
How many times a week do you watch any part of a local TV news show betwen 4 and 4:30? 4:30 and 5:00? 5:00 and 5:30? 5:30 and 6:00? 6:00 and 6:30? 6:30 and 7:00?
On nights when you have the TV on between 4:00 and 4:30, which of the following shows would you be watching (detailed list of show, and channel, or “other”)
For each of the following news anchors, please rate them between 1 and 10, where 1 is the worst and 10 is the best (long list of local anchors)?
Since Pete Wilson has moved to the ABC news at 6:30, do you feel the program has improved, stayed the same, or become worse?

On and on, for 17 minutes. Which channel is the best for investigative news reports? Yeesh. But what the hell, right? The only open-ended question was one about what they could do to improve the quality of local TV news. I suggested “less fearmongering and sensationalism.” So he typed it in…”less….sensa—tional—ism…” and then asked me “and you would replace that with what, then?” I paused, “umm…straight-ahead news???” and he typed “more….straight….for….ward….news”

As the time passed, we obviously were wrapping up, and we came to the demographic questions. Age. Highest level of education. Employment status – which offered no category that I felt was appropriate for me. So I said “decline to answer.” He stopped short and said “Can I ask why? I mean, I have other people decline questions, but usually not that one.” I was kinda stuck – I mean, if you aren’t going to answer, why should you have to say WHY you aren’t going to answer. I didn’t say anything, and I got this pretty intense routine about how important this data was, etc. in order for them to better target their information. I repeated that I wouldn’t answer it, and he get pretty flustered and said “look, are you employed or NOT?” which I don’t believe is actually on their interview guide…

It got worse…the next question was about income, and I interrupted him and said “I’m not going to answer that one either” and he kinda flipped – he got incredibly loud and agressive, telling me that it’s all collapsed into a big pile of data, blah blah blah, and I was amazed. I understand he probably gets paid per complete, but they’ve got to have something in place where you can just skip a question. I certainly didn’t need the abuse, it was amusing at first, but not a good use of time at this point. I interrupted his tirade and told him to take me off their list, “too bad for you buddy” I muttered, and I just put the phone down.



About Steve