We’re going to take a break from the journalistic equivalent of calisthenics for a while and pursue a project that hopefully will be a bit more fun: profile writing.
The topic can be anything — “hard” news or “soft,” lifestyle, entertainment, sports, academics, pastimes, social justice, anything and everything under the sun. The only requirement is that you tell us about a person who’s doing something interesting, surprising or somehow revelatory, and that you capture not so much the details of what he or she has done, is doing or will do and you capture the emotions of the person involved. You want to let your reader, listener, viewer or other audience member be able to vicariously experience the interesting aspects of this person’s life.
Your subject cannot be a close friend or associate. It may not even be the first person you approach, or the second. You want to use your reporting process to find someone worth profiling, then spend whatever time is needed gathering information to create a complete and compelling profile.
Start with basic research. See what other journalists have tried to do with similar topics. This may give you insight into the approach and type of questions most likely to yield fertile results. Then identify and contact your initial choice of a person to profile. Record the interview and create sound bites as we did earlier with our interviewing to find story ideas exercise. You also should consider taking a few still photos or even recording a bit of video, if you feel comfortable doing that. But keep in mind that the assignment is not about creating visual or aural material as much as it is about finding an appropriate topic.
You can stick with the ideas we explored in class Feb. 15 or come up with another topic. It can relate to your original story proposal or be about something else altogether. The important thing is, it needs to be something you personally will find interesting to work on and your audience will find informative, fulfilling or interesting.
We’ll expect you to have a decent start on your work by Tuesday, Feb. 20. We’ll review your progress and talk about where to go from there. This won’t be something you can knock off in a 15-minute interview. You probably will have to spend several hours with your subject, probably encompassing multiple visits. But for now we can deal with something shorter as a first step in the process. Post your story in the Profile category before the start of class
Keep in mind that we’re looking to bring broadcast-style focus and print-style depth to the reporting process. These tips may help:
- How to write a profile feature from the New York Times “Student Voices” project.
- How to write a compelling profile of a person from TheBalance.com
- Seven tips for writing personality profiles that people will want to read from ThoughtCo.
- Eight steps for writing a compelling profile story from The Write Life.
- How to write a profile story from CubReporters.org