Instructions

 

Find someone you think is interesting and newsworthy (someone who’s spending her summer doing something interesting, has overcome difficulties, has an unusual job or hobby, goes out of his way to help others, won a prestigious award, etc.).

Write about the person without stating any of your own opinions in the story. Use third person (he said, she did), with accurate quotes in the person’s own words.  Try to capture a sense of the individual’s personality and mood.

Quote at least two other people who know the subject of your story well. Get an action photo of your subject – either take it yourself or get one from them. A list of sources and contact information is required.

Your story should be between 600 and 800 words. By noon on Feb. 15, you must e-mail your story idea proposal to mgrabowski@adelphi.edu (We will also discuss it in class that day). Your story is due by 11:59 p.m. on March 9. You will have an opportunity to revise your story and re-submit it for a new grade. All items should be e-mailed to mgrabowski@adelphi.edu . No extensions will be given.

It is important that you begin work on this assignment immediately because it will take you several hours to conduct interviews and write a good story. Additionally, your sources may not be able to set aside time to interview, if you wait until the last moment.

 

 

Choosing a Topic for Your Story

 

I must approve any topic. If you want to change your topic later, you can. But you must confirm with me. If you submit a topic I didn't approve, you automatically lose 2 letter grades.

Pick something newsworthy to many people, not just you. Being in a sorority, doing community service, and playing the cello while working and maintaining a B-plus average is impressive. But it's not newsworthy. Many students successfully juggle many tasks. However, if the same student was the only person to win a national award for community service or just got signed by a professional orchestra, that would be newsworthy. Similarly, being a member of an AU sports team takes talent but it is not newsworthy. However, if the athlete set a school record for points scored or got drafted by a professional team, that's newsworthy.

In addition, keep in mind: If another reporter has already published a story about your subject, s/he's not newsworthy. The person is old news. Choose someone else. Choose someone you have access to and whom you can interview (several times, if necessary). Make sure the person is OK with being written about in a story that may potentially be published. Avoid writing about close friends, significant others, family members and anyone who has authority over you (e.g., a boss, a professor, etc.). This is a conflict of interest and will result in a grade of F. Don't write about dead people -- that's an obituary, not a profile. Remember, you must be able to interview the person you are writing about. In addition, you will need at least two other sources.

Once I approve your topic, get working on the story and set up interviews ASAP. Your sources' schedules may not align with yours, so if you wait till the last minute, or an interview falls through, you're out of luck. You need to start working on this story immediately so that you can change directions -- and/or topics -- if you realize your original idea isn't going to pan out. Excuses will not be accepted. Nor will late stories, which will result in an F.

 

 

How to Write a Profile Story

 

A profile story is a portrait of a person in words. Like the best painted portraits, the best profiles capture the character, spirit and style of their subjects. They delve beneath the surface to look at what motivates people, what excites them, what makes them interesting. Good profiles get into the heart of the person and find out what makes them tick.

The problem is that lives are hard to fit into newspaper articles, no matter how much space is allotted for them. Reporters who simply try to cram into a profile all the facts they can come up with inevitably end up with something more like a narrative version of a resume than a journalism story.

Like all other stories, profiles must have an angle, a primary theme. That theme should be introduced in the lead, it should be explored and often it will be returned to at the end of the story. Something of a person’s character, spirit and style will then be revealed through that theme.

Whatever the theme, it takes a thorough understanding of a person’s life to create a revealing sketch of that life. Reporters should spend time with their subjects while they’re doing whatever makes them newsworthy. For example, if you’re writing about a ballerina, try to observe her performing on stage or at least practicing in her dance studio.

Good profiles - and all good journalism stories - show, instead of telling. Use all five senses when you interview someone. What are they wearing? Do they fiddle nervously with their pencil? Is there a chocolate smudge on their shirt? Is their hair stylishly spiked?

Because a profile cannot be complete without quotes - there is no way to write a profile without extensive interviewing. Frequently, more than one interview is necessary unless the writer already knows his subject well Good profiles also contain quotes from people who know the subject of your story well. Spice your story with the words of family, friends, enemies and the subjects themselves.

Finally, good profiles strike the appropriate tone.  Think about your profile - is it someone who is involved in a serious issue, like eating disorders? You probably want to be more serious in your tone. Is it someone playful - a comic book artist, perhaps? You can be more playful. But remember - your personal opinion is not appropriate. You are there to merely paint a picture of this person - to let the facts speak for themselves.

 

 

Examples

 

Click here to see examples of good profiles written by my former journalism students. All of these stories were eventually published in newspapers.

 

 

Step-By-Step Guide

 

Follow these steps when working on your profile story:

 

 

1. BEFORE INTERVIEW

 

2. SETTING UP INTERVIEW

 

3. AT INTERVIEW

 

4. QUESTIONS

5. AT END

Thank them for their time and ask them if it’s OK for you to contact them again if they have questions. Ask them if there’s anyone else they should talk to about them. Give them a timeline for when you plan to write your story and where you hope to publish it, if you know. However, do not agree to show them your story before you publish it. Otherwise, you will be inviting censorship. If they ask why they can’t see your story before you submit it, you can explain that it’s impractical given your tight deadline and that your journalism professor prohibits it.

 

6. AFTERWARD

Reflect on the interview and try to list your main points of the story. What are the highlights? Jot down any ideas you have for writing the story. As soon as possible, rewrite your notes so they make sense to you. Use tape recorder to fill in gaps or clarify things. Contact source again to supply missing info.

 

 

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