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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Meh

So recently, the Journal started doing "Piedmont Profiles", which is almost what I hoped for (see #7) way back in June. But the Piedmont Profiles in the Journal just don't quite do it. And since they started, I have been trying to figure out why. It isn't the people selected; by definition, anyone not famous works, and the Journal has done a really good job of selecting people from all walks. But then two things happen.

1. The Journal's profiles are too long. There's too much info, and the focus is too loose. Instead of being a snapshot of one aspect of a person, they are the equivalent of a whole movie.

2. The people in the profiles lose their voices. Somewhere in the interview or the writeup, any distinct personality that comes from the person's own words is washed out. We're told what the person feels/thinks/believes rather than hearing his or her words and interpreting them for ourselves. And the thing that is unique to the person is lost in the translation. Instead of feeling like we've met the person, we feel like we've read about xyz reporter meeting the person.

I just really wish the Journal profiles were done in the first person, using the person's own words only. It's not easy; there's an art to interview, assuredly. By no means do I think I've mastered it, merely hinted at it. But I know it can be done.

Piedmont Portrait #1
Piedmont Portrait #2
Piedmont Portrait #3

EDITING TO ADD: For example, today's Piedmont Profile is about a nun who teaches school locally. If you take out every word she didn't speak, leaving only her words and her voice, here's what you are left with:

Tuck your shirttail in. We have no bums here. Chairs in. Feet on the floor. Back against the back of the chair. Hopefully it puts the fear of God in them. You sit there and you can go into la-la land. God gives me the strength I need. A lot of parents nowadays want to be their child's friends. Pray. Don't litter. Respect yourself. Be a good citizen. Help others. It means I didn't give up. It says this is where I've invested my time and energy.

I feel much more like I've met her that way. Don't you? The rest of the article is just unnecessary.
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