Sunday, November 20, 2005

Profiles: Portraits in Words

Profiles can round out good beat coverage. But doing them well takes time and an artist's eye for detail.

You also need a good reason -- a news peg -- to do them. Good profile subjects are often people wielding great power or those about to wield it. Sometimes they're about quiet people doing remarkable things behind-the-scenes. Other times, they're about ordinary people whose stories illuminate great public problems.

Good profiles put their subjects in the context of the news and reveal their passions or motives. The best ones look at their subjects from lots of perspectives and aren't shy about focusing on flaws as well as strengths.

Poor profiles are superficial, vague and distant. The worst are hero-worshipping puff pieces that seem as if the subject paid the reporter to write them. Nobody's perfect, as they say. And in public affairs, it's a rare leader who climbs to prominence without making enemies as well as friends. Complexity is what makes people truly interesting, anyway. Capturing it requires intelligence and flair -- and lots of sources.

Who in Missoula would make a timely subject for a profile? Why?

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