1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

How to find/report/write compelling profiles

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by smsu_scribe, Aug 24, 2009.

  1. smsu_scribe

    smsu_scribe Guest

    What do you guys look for when trying to decide on a profile subject and how to go about interviewing them? I feel like my profiles so far have been too cliche, and they've mostly just involved choosing a top player on a team and firing through a quick interview with them and their coach, maybe a teammate. I want to find that rich, compelling story that has some conflict and isn't a quick draft that only gets a player's name in the paper and doesn't accomplish much else.

    I want to get better at writing profiles. I'm sports editor of a college paper that comes out every other week, so profiles are going to be the main focus for me, at least in the print version of the paper. Game stories are irrelevant with a printing schedule like that.
  2. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    For one, your best human interest stories are almost never about the star players. Talk to the players, coaches, professors even. Find out about the stories of some of the lesser-known players.
    Last year I wrote a story on kid with cerebral palsy who was on his college swim team. Mind you it was a junior college swim team and the coach is always looking for warm bodies just to fill out his roster. But the kid was a good interview. The other swimmers on the team seemed to genuinely be inspired by his presence at practices and meets. His coach had some great stories about how the kid improved throughout the season. He swims the backstroke because he has trouble balancing on the starting blocks. Swimmers start in the water for the backstroke. Eventually the kid found a way to start from the side of the pool without having to get on the blocks. Kills his times, but he was racing freestyle by the end of the season.
    That's just one example.
    Just talk to people. Find out where some of the players call home, what they do in the summer, when they go back home. The more you talk, the more stories will pan out.
  3. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    It's not often that a player will talk much about himself or herself. Rather, I've found out that asking that player who his closest friends are, and then asking those players about the original person's hidden talents or backgrounds, that much of the interesting stuff comes out.

    That's just a start. It's all about talking to the people around the person you're looking to talk to.
  4. Den1983

    Den1983 Active Member

    Yeah, you'll hardly get a riveting profile talking to a player himself or herself. But talking to their close friends will be key, as well as coaches and authority figures.

    You basically just have to keep an eye out on players and see how they interact and behave. Sometimes just mere observation will tip you off. It's a matter of paying attention, asking around and then judging for yourself what would be a good profile and what would not.
  5. finishthehat

    finishthehat Active Member

    Just go to a practice and shout out "Anyone here overcome adversity?" Usually works.

    If not, follow the good advice in the above posts.
  6. Hank_Scorpio

    Hank_Scorpio Active Member

    Be observant, whenever you are at practices or games or around school.

    Keep your eyes and ears open.

    And like others have said, don't just look at the star players either. When I say be observant, I mean, the ENTIRE gym/school/whatever.

    Couple examples I've seen: One is an obvious story, one not so much.

    You have a one-armed kid on the basketball team. Obviously, there's a human interest angle there on how he succeeds, etc.

    Another story: volunteer coach who has been with the team for 30 years or so, and everyone looks up to him. Find out about him, what makes him tick, why he's stayed around so long, what he means to the players, etc.

    The first story is obvious. But you get the second story by listening and watching.

    When you do preview stories, if at all possible, go to the practice field, instead of doing it via phone.
  7. Babs

    Babs Member

    Do really good research ahead of time and then ask them about things that no one else is asking. Often, they will be impressed enough that you brought it up that they will talk a lot about it.

    The above gets easier and easier with the internet. Everyone leaves breadcrumbs nowadays.
  8. Sneed

    Sneed Guest

    Ask insightful questions. "Duh," I know. But don't stick with "so how did you feel about the way you did in these games?" Sports guys love to talk about the intricate things in sports. (Edit: Everyone loves to talk about the intricacies of whatever they do.) Sometimes what you talk to them about isn't going to be directly related to your story--but sometimes it warms them up enough to make them comfortable enough with you to share more than they otherwise might.

    Don't go all buddy-buddy on them. But don't just "interview" them. Have a conversation with them. Same goes for their friends, coaches, parents. Obviously, you don't want to spend too much time gabbing about irrelevant stuff. But sometimes, that irrelevant gabbing can, out of nowhere, bring up something very, very relevant that you'll be ever-so-grateful you accidentally asked about.

    I once spent two hours interviewing people for a profile. The final question I asked gave me an entirely new story. Spent another two hours interviewing, based on the answer to that one question.

    Just funny the way things come out sometimes.

    But um, yeah, that was just a bunch of rambling so take what you want from it and leave the rest....
  9. golfnut8924

    golfnut8924 Guest

    Do some homework on the backgrounds of the athletes at your school. Is there a football player who is majoring in something strange/smart/etc.? Is there a basketball player from somewhere unique like Europe or South America? Is there an athlete who transferred to your school from another college? There's sometimes a juicy story as to why somebody transferred. Try to find out if anybody has any interesting hobbies or excels at another sport.

    Most of all, just pay attention to detail. I once spotted a tattoo of a pit bull on an athlete's back and I asked him what the significance of it was. He said his family bred pitbulls and it turned into a great feature story (and no, it wasn't Michael Vick).
  10. spikechiquet

    spikechiquet Well-Known Member

    But in that four hours, I could have pounded out two previews, a notebook and a gamer with self-shot photos.
    I would love to be able to do that stuff, but being short-staffed and hounded to get more done in less time, stuff like this falls to the wayside.

    It's sad, and I hate it.
  11. Smasher_Sloan

    Smasher_Sloan Active Member

    Don't rule out star players. Sometimes there's an angle there that hasn't been done and, obviously, people are more likely to read something about the star running back than a walk-on.

    Get to know <i>everybody</i> who is involved with the team you cover. Maybe a secretary tells you that the 300-pound monster lineman likes to come into one of the music rooms and play the piano to relax after practice. Maybe a team manager tells you that running back picks up discarded cafeteria food and delivers it to a homeless shelter every night. You never know.

    We like to think that scoops come from great investigative work, but a lot of that is just maintaining relationships with people and listening to them
  12. rpmmutant

    rpmmutant Member

    I forgot the best part of the swimmer story. I found out about it because my wife overheard a group of kids on the swim team at a Starbucks talking about the swimmer with cerebral palsy. Moral to the story is keep your ears open and listen to your wife (or significant other, whatever the case may be).
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page