The Profile and Feature Story

By Patrick Larsen

The news media would not be what it is today without profiles and features. As America’s Best points out, these stories were originally intended to increase circulation of newspapers.

They are in some ways both constant and changing styles of writing, with human interest turning from outlet to outlet on a regular basis but never straying too far from the fundamentals of an emotional human story. But change has undoubtedly rocked the foundations of profile and feature writing since its inception. The pure format itself is less popular than it was in the past, but pieces of it are adapted regularly in beat and even hard news reporting. For example, it has become commonplace to humanize politicians that formerly would have been quotes on a page.

There is certainly some merit to this approach, as the press should not only be a narrow understanding of political affairs, but also a way to make them informational and interesting. It helps to get the people informed.

 

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Cynthia Gorney – National Geographic

 

Dr. Seuss: Wild Orchestrator of Plausible Nonsense for Kids

 

 

By Cynthia Gorney

Gorney does well in this profile of the venerable author to characterize him as not only the creator of his brand of wit, but also someone who lives in it. She ensures that there is a Seuss-like curiosity that appears wherever his work takes him in the world. Just as importantly, she also is sure to convey his perfectionism and how that ties him to his father, which allows him to maintain his character while also making him distinctly relatable to the average American adult. He is fun-loving and hard-working, comedic and very serious. Even the title belies this balance: Wild is equated with Orchestrator and Plausible is equated with Nonsense.

Koch Grabs Big Apple and Shakes It

By Saul Pett

It’s no mystery after reading this story Ed Koch was a contentious mayor. Pett never lets an assertion go by without an anecdote featuring the mayor to back it up. What results is a mixed bag of a character, which is just what Pett wanted.

His Dreams Belong to the Next Generation/An Old Flame Still Burns After 50 Years

By Diana Griego Erwin

Erwin, in two relatively short pieces, makes the reader think that they are not reading the news. These stories are teeming with little details that slow them down and make them tick. This shows the value of persistent note taking while reporting in the field. It is necessary to write a compelling feature on a person. The reader sees themself in the details.

 

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For Lerro, Skyway Nightmare Never Ends

 

Finkel uses extensive setting description that goes hand in hand with the character of the story. For example, Lerro talks about living like an animal and Finkel backs it up with a dreary description of Lerro’s regular surroundings. Finkel also does well to describe the success of Lerro’s past and using that as not only an emotional device but also one that brings us into the present moment. Although it certainly is not a cheery story, it is very powerful.

Here are some current examples.

Mingus and poul fri among newest Tijuana residents

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Ten Tips for Feature Writing

By Matthew Suárez

This story is interesting because it ties three very different things together and makes it interesting and cohesive as a piece. Mingus and chicken act as themes that tie the ends of the story together. They provide an arc that the reader can follow and be interested in.

Geoff Toovey: ‘It’s very easy to pull club culture apart

By John Davidson

Davidson does well to use the background of sports to his advantage. Sports are structured around making stories, so the NRL offers good bones for his story about Toovey, a person.

In the Face of A.L.S., Simon Fitzmaurice Finds His Fire Inside

By Kathryn Shattock

Shattock has the advantage of a fascinating story here. Most people could never imagine someone with a disease as degenerative as ALS directing a film and Shattock likely realized that in choosing this story. Her interviews with Fitzmaurice about the day to day difficulties of directing with ALS and how he overcomes those difficulties are excellent bits of detail – they show us how he fights adversity, something we all relate to.

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