Good Examples of Profiles in Journalism


Eugene Rivers’s Moment from the Boston Phoenix

This is a feature-personality on the controversial black community leader Eugene Rivers. The story starts by describing a casual interaction Eugene Rivers has within his church, followed by a new paragraph explaining who he is and his importance. I have seen very few personality pieces’s jump into answering the question of who the person is immediately, as it tends to make for a uninteresting lead.

Rivers’s controversy as of late is that he has been trying to replace Jesse Jackson as the African-American’s most prominent leader. It is a rumor that Eugene Rivers’s confronts in the profile directly as perplexing. This builds the readers interest to find out if the claims hold any legitimacy. This small controversy is the main point of the article that keeps it moving an interesting. Yet the story is, along the way, scattered along with specific details of who Rivers’s is and why he has brought this controversy to himself.

Privilege, tragedy, and a young leader from the Boston Globe

I chose to read through this article because I wanted to see how the profile of a well-known person in American politics might differ in style and approach to lesser-known individuals.

This article starts off with an incredibly catching lead, “By the time he saw the black Mercedes barreling into his lane, there was nothing Mitt Romney could do.” I would consider this a very unexpected way to start a profile on a well-known politician. This unique approach really grabs in the readers to expect something different then a dry straight news story on a politician. The story describes this thrilling instance in Mitt Romney’s life before jumping back to the details of his birth and upbringing. Were the story to have gone in strictly chronological order, it would be too predictable for readers to feel the need to read on.

Perhaps the most successful aspects of this story is how it provides, piece by piece, a background of Mormonism as well as how it played a role in Romney’s life. The piece is challenged by having to fully explain both of these complicated matters for the reader to understand. The article is part of a seven part series, Interestingly enough, the article ends back at the car accident that threatened Romney’s life. The same detail used to readers into this story is used to conclude the article and encourage readers to want to read onto the second part of the series.

Michael Kelley’s Obstacle Course
from the Charlotte Observer

This article takes a fairly common approach to writing profiles, by leading readers by mentioning the most thrilling aspect of the subject’s life. In this case, it was Michael Kelley’s encounter with an air-collision at Pope Air Force Base. However, this detail is not revealed into a few lines in the story, only hinting at it other times in the lead by mentioning how he had gone through a huge “healing stage.”

Amazingly enough, the article doesn’t explain the crash Kelley experienced but rather the training he had to endure to become a police officer.This vignette within his life is a story runs parallel to the story of his heroic recovery. It is written in an energetic style, with time’s starting each section like the beginnings of an episode of 24.

This is not at all a story about the Pope Air Force Base of a survivor, but a survivor who defied expectations and came through an amazing recovery. And Tomlinson is able to emphasize this by the describing Tomlinson’s training in a compelling way.

A Father’s Pain, a Judge’s Duty, and a Justice Beyond Their Reach
from the Los Angeles Times

The headline and lead of this story could not be any more compelling. Only a few paragraphs into the story, readers are already drawn in from two different perspectives of the judge and the father. For the father, Wayment, the story could not be anymore heartbreaking.

The story tells the story in a way that is sympathetic to Wayment, describing his negligence in a situation that got his son killed, the guilt he felt for what happened, as well as the rumors and allegations that spread as to what could have happened. This story is a crime story as much as it is a profile.

Having all the details today, it is able to refer back to the time when the details weren’t all there to give a complete picture of what happened. While the story is somewhat chronoligocical, revealing the details along the way is an interesting approach that makes the story all the more compelling. The story also spends a great deal of time profiling the man who sentenced Wayment, Judge Hilder, and the background on his life that made it so difficult to deliver a sentence in this case.
A Muslim Leader in Brooklyn, Reconciling 2 Worlds from the New York Times

This profile does more than profile the life of an imam living in Brooklyn. It also tells the story of how a Muslim lives in the United States, an intriguing story to readers that widens the scope beyond the life of Mr. Shata.

Mr. Shata arrived to the United States a day after September 11, and found many challenges as a church leader for himself and the people he led in his mosque. As you read through the story you see how Mr. Shata’s story is really one of adjustment. It notes all the changes he has had to make with his life personally, as well as evolving the way his mosque functions in a country far from his home in Egypt.

It also tells of the discrimination he faced following September 11, including his mosque being “defiled with graffiti and smeared with feces.” Profiles often become stories about more than just one person. This profile rarely strays from the stories or experiences of Mr. Shata, yet is still able to touch on many other important things. Through his experience, his story becomes one interest for everyone, of what it means to be a Muslim in Brooklyn, to face discrimination after September 11, and to fulfill the lives of mosque attendees and provide for them the religious service we see in all forms of religion. It makes a story detailing a life that few know about become a story about something we can all relate to.


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