Elements of a Great Profile (Updated)

The profile is a standard form of journalistic storytelling. It has been described as “biographical piece…a concise rendering of a life through anecdoteincidentinterview and description.”

Of course, it starts with story hunting and reporting.

Here are some of the essential elements of a great profile:

1. Choice of subject – Someone you are genuinely curious about. And someone who can articulate who they are, what they do, and why they do it.

2. Action – Your subject must “do something.”

3. Access – For interviews and to observe person in action.

4. Perspective – From others who know the subject. You want to interview others. And you want to see your subject in relationship to others.

5. Attention – To the words, actions and details that reveal something about your subject.

Susan Orlean, a master of the profile, writes, “An ordinary life examined closely reveals itself to be exquisite and complicated and exceptional, somehow managing to be both heroic and plain.”

One of my personal favorite online profiles is a NYTimes.com video profile called Slomo.

Here is the content I’m looking for in your profile (using Slomo as an example):

Now try to find each of these elements in this profile from The Missing: Searching for New York’s Lost (ONA Finalist)


About Nick DiUlio

My name is Nick DiUlio, a freelance writer and editor from New Jersey. I have been passionate about the craft of writing since I was old enough to spell, and this love has led to a successful career in journalism and creative nonfiction. As a freelancer, I have covered a wide range of topics and personalities, as my published work has focused on everything from profiles of artists and important political figures to hard-news stories with both national and local appeal; from restaurant and beverage reviews to tips on fashion and finance; from health and wellness pieces to celebrity Q&A’s. My work has appeared in several local, regional and national publications—both in print and online—including Philadelphia Magazine, Slate.com, Miller-McCune, New Jersey Monthly, Eating Well, and Delaware Today. Additionally, I am the South Jersey Bureau Chief for New Jersey Monthly and an adjunct journalism professor at Rowan University. To be sure, the broadness of my body of work seems only to be matched by my boundless interest in almost every subject imaginable (except Warren Zevon). Check out some of my most recently published work here.
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