Elements of a Great Profile (Updated)

The profile is a standard form of journalistic storytelling. It has been described as “biographical piece…a concise rendering of a life through anecdote, incident, interview and description.”

Of course, it starts with story hunting and reporting.

Here are some of the essential elements of a great profile:

1. Choice of subject – Someone you are genuinely curious about. And someone who can articulate who they are, what they do, and why they do it.

2. Action – Your subject must “do something.”

3. Access – For interviews and to observe person in action.

4. Perspective – From others who know the subject. You want to interview others. And you want to see your subject in relationship to others.

5. Attention – To the words, actions and details that reveal something about your subject.

Susan Orlean, a master of the profile, writes, “An ordinary life examined closely reveals itself to be exquisite and complicated and exceptional, somehow managing to be both heroic and plain.”

One of my personal favorite online profiles is a NYTimes.com video profile called Slomo.

Here is the content I’m looking for in your profile (using Slomo as an example):

Now try to find each of these elements in this profile from The Missing: Searching for New York’s Lost (ONA Finalist)

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