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Writing profiles and obits

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

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

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  • 1. Profiles and Obits
  • 2. Prepare
    Know as much as possible about the person first.
    Prepare questions in advance.
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. Short "snapshot" profiles
    Each paragraph makes a point
    Must pack a lot of information into a small space.
  • 11. Obits
    Obits are stories about someone's life (not their death)
  • 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.
    Date and place of death
    Cause of death. Special treatment possible for AIDs and suicide.
  • 13. Background
    Specific accomplishments
    Other highlights
  • 14. Other requirements
    Survivors: Use names of immediate family. Grandchildren are listed by number, usually not name.
    Services and burial
  • 15. Style tips
    In obits, media outlets generally use Mr., Mrs., Ms. Miss
    Do not assume a woman uses Mrs. or Miss. Ask.
  • 16. Accuracy
    Always think: Should I fact-check that?
    Relatives may not have accurate information. You are still responsible for finding the truth.