Writing profiles and obits

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Highlights of chapter on profiles and obits written by Carole Rich, "Writing and Reporting News."

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Writing profiles and obits

  1. 1. Profiles and Obits
  2. 2. Prepare • Know as much as possible about the person first. • Prepare questions in advance.
  3. 3. Focus • Profile still needs a nut graph. • Why is this person worth reading about? Why are you doing this profile now? The nut graph should answer that question – for you and for the reader
  4. 4. Theme • Different from nut graph • Theme is an idea that ties things together. • It helps decide which quotes, facts and anecdotes to use and which to leave out. • It can be very subtle. Ask yourself: What about this person really struck me?
  5. 5. Background • Don't write a profile in chronological order • Some background may come before the nut graph, as part of a longer lead. • Be selective in your use of background: Include essential facts plus selected details.
  6. 6. Other points of view • What do other people say about the subject of this profile? • Get quotes and comments from other sources • Sometimes, it helps to talk to other sources first, to help you prepare for the interview.
  7. 7. Get the facts right • Go back and check every spelling of every proper noun. • Some news outlets had a tradition of CQ - means you double-checked. You wrote a CQ over every proper name to indicate you had double-checked it.
  8. 8. Show, don't tell • Observe. Describe. And then show the subject in action. • Example: Don’t say a subject is “kind.” Show a kind act and let the reader conclude that. • Use details that are revealing and related to your theme.
  9. 9. In-depth profiles • Require planning. Who will you talk to? What information do you need? • Require organization. How will you tell the story? Think through an outline or structure rather than rambling. • Require transitions. Watch that you don’t jump from topic to topic abruptly.
  10. 10. Short "snapshot" profiles • Each paragraph makes a point • Must pack a lot of information into a small space.
  11. 11. Obits • Obits are stories about someone's life (not their death)
  12. 12. Obits require: • Full name. If there is a widely used nickname, put it in quotes. Gerald “Lefty” Smith. • Identification – a phrase that defines person, generally by city or profession or key fact. • Age • Date and place of death • Cause of death. Special treatment possible for AIDs and suicide.
  13. 13. Background • Specific accomplishments • Organizations • Education • Other highlights
  14. 14. Other requirements • Survivors: Use names of immediate family. Grandchildren are listed by number, usually not name. • Services and burial
  15. 15. Style tips • In obits, media outlets generally use Mr., Mrs., Ms. Miss • Do not assume a woman uses Mrs. or Miss. Ask.
  16. 16. Accuracy • Always think: Should I fact-check that? • Relatives may not have accurate information. You are still responsible for finding the truth.

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