Crouched over a thin foldable chair, she scrawls words down quickly on a packet that folds along her thigh. She nibbles on snacks and occasionally stops for a moment to think and ponder on opening lines. She is a Girls Write Now writer.
This is my profile of a Girls Write Now writer. I had never thought of profiles as works of journalism, but that’s exactly what the Journalism: Profiles Workshop at Girls Write Now allowed me to explore: the unexpected, unanticipated truths about the genre.
So what is journalism? I used to think it meant The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and a collection of facts presented by a reporter, but I was wrong. Journalism is so much more than churning out facts. Reporters are not well-oiled machines. Journalism reveals something about the subject at hand, and the reporters are the eyes that see it. It’s the journalists’ job to interpret, present, and discover something for the reader.
During the Craft Talk portion of the workshop, Ms. Lizzie Widdicombe’s eyes hid behind her dark-rimmed glasses as she spoke to us about her experience as a journalist for The New Yorker. Her narrow frame shook with awkwardness as she emphatically said: “Take notes! All the time! You’re writing and writing and taking all these notes and you don’t know what you’re going to find sometimes.” It made me realize how much we miss in our everyday interactions with people. I found it good advice to continuously take notes, because people are bound to miss the little things when they try to remember back to a conversation with someone.
She spoke to us about conducting her fascinatig (yet odd) interviews with Jesse Eisenberg and Taylor Swift. As I started reading her pieces, I could see what her subjects “looked” like to her, and how that appearance seemed to reflect on the person’s biography as a whole. Although, she did acknowledge that some people feel “betrayed” by her profiles on them, she explains, “The way I see it, civilians see themselves differently than journalists do, which is why they feel betrayed by us.” Some people aren’t used to seeing their words in print, but it’s up to the journalist to compile what they believe are important quotes and facts about a person and present them.
Sometimes, I learned, journalism isn’t just headlines like, “Roadside Bombing in Baghdad” or “Romney wins Illinois.” Sometimes journalism is just a conversation between the writer and the reader.