The March 10th Girls Write Now Journalism Profiles Workshop was an amazing experience. Award-winning writer Vanessa Grigoriadis (of Rolling Stone magazine and other publications) not only gave us tips on how to write a strong profile, but she also talked to us about how to be a good reporter, and how to get all the right info without going too deep into the personal issues of your subject. One of her most profound bits of advice was that, as a journalist, your story’s focus should be on all the things you’d be dying to tell your friends right after an interview. She talked about how writing a profile should mean knowing someone’s routines, doing the research to figure things out about your subject before you ask, and giving them enough confidence to tell you more details about those things. At the workshop, we also looked at a few examples of different profiles, such as from Radio Diaries, and profiles written about family. We also talked about profiles that we haven’t ever read about, that might be interesting to read (Fidel Castro was one name that came up).
These exercises influenced me to write more profiles, and they helped me organize my thoughts; they even helped me write this to help YOU write a better profile of someone! During the workshop, we were assigned to write a daily routine of someone we are familiar with, someone we know really well. I decided to write about my sister, whose schedule I know perfectly and who’s always keeping track of what she wears and what she does. After that, we had the option to choose from one of four prompts given and elaborate more on our subject.
Before the workshop, to me, Journalism was just writers taking people’s privacy and making it public, which seemed unfair. But the way Vanessa explained her experience writing a profile on Justin Bieber made my thoughts expand. For example, Vanessa mentioned that in the middle of their interview, Justin Bieber had to fly to Los Angeles, and she went along with him last-minute. I see that as a journalist it could be really hard if you feel you’re not making your subject feel comfortable—she had to ask him questions in front of people on an airplane, probably they were all staring or there was too much talking, which could make it really hard to concentrate. I admire Vanessa and many other journalists because they risk their own personal comfort zone to ask hard questions, all in the hopes of entertaining people. Also, she mentioned that sometimes you might get nervous asking questions, so just be honest, make eye contact, establish trust, and hopefully the subject should feel you trying to create a character, to show their humanity. This made me realize that Journalism is not as bad as it sometimes seems; it’s actually very entertaining and it takes effort and courage for you to compose a profile about someone you actually don’t know at all.
The Girls Write Now Journalism Workshop was an unforgettable experience, and it completely changed my point of view. Journalists don’t just abuse people’s privacy as I had thought. They try to inform and educate in a way they believe will be entertaining for their readers. Overall this workshop inspired me, and I am intrigued to read more profiles because of it—and who knows, maybe one day you’ll read a profile about you written by me!