Profiles and Processes

“A profile is not just a list of chronological events in an individual’s life. A profile seeks to capture the essence – the point – of the person being profiled, and that is done, often, through narrative.” –Amy Wallace

Scrolling through my bookmarked pages today, I found this Nieman Storyboard interview with Amy Wallace that I meant to read when it was published more than a month ago. The entire piece is fantastic. First, Wallace’s profiling craft and process illustrated through the annotations offer insights for writers and journalists. Second, the profile of Garry Shandling is a great piece of art where readers also learn about his process. Third, I appreciate Wallace’s thoughts on profiling. One of my favorite aspects of journalism is writing other people’s stories. I spend a lot of time in music journalism, but not to produce album reviews. I want to profile bands and artists (and other fascinating people not necessarily involved in music) to “capture the essence” of them as Wallace says. I love the process of spending time with a person and the other people in their lives, gathering facts, information and perceptions of these people and then editing it together to create a narrative—a narrative that offers deeper understanding of not just a person, but the world.

“The person at the center of the profile is the vehicle that allows us to talk about ideas,” Wallace says. In profiles and narratives, writers are “looking for characters and moments that pull you through (and toward) greater understanding.”


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