Oscar time

Oscar time

To say that I originally underestimated the reach of the Oscar Pistorius story would be a massive understatement.

I heard the early reports on talk radio, and though I knew who he was, I didn’t realize how famous he was throughout the world. Soon, I had a phone call asking if I could go out and talk to people on the street for USA Today. It was Valentine’s Day, so I had to squeeze the reporting in between a picnic by a pond and evening theater tickets while my patient partner fed the ducks.

This weekend, just over a year after Oscar Pistorius killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, I was back out asking South Africans about their thoughts about the trial and the media frenzy for USA Today.

A new survey says that 97 percent of South Africans plan to follow the trial. So even though most “regular people” have some opinions, finding those who have the time and inclination to share is more of a challenge than it used to be simply because of cell phones.

I scope out fairly busy pedestrian areas that draw a cross-section of society, and then read body language to try to determine who is most approachable. Other than smokers who have been banished from their workplace and are quickly puffing their break away, the vast majority of people by themselves are tapping away on cell phones–probably some of them with #Oscar.