How difficult is it to spend time with a subject long enough and learn something new about them?
In journalism, an interview or a profile gives the audience the chance to learn more about a person in the news (for example, a celebrity or a politician), or someone that the journalist (or blogger) has found interesting enough to be interviewed, or do a profile on. A profile is, more often than not, based on an interview because an interview gives a journalist the chance to spend time with his or her subject. Only one hour or two, is not a lot of time to learn about a person and make them feel comfortable around a journalist, and neither is it sufficient time to produce a very good profile of an individual.
The basic rules involve being with the subject of the interview, as a journalist for such a long time, that they show you who they really are as a person. I tend to look at profiles (or interviews) as a chance to examine a subject I find very interesting. Another important fact to me, whilst gathering the ingredients to cooking up a profile: is spending time with the subject(s) + making sure that the time is long, regular and primarily great-work-based.
As a journalist, learning from action-oriented methods also help you to understand your subject on a deeper level because how a person likes to do things also show you so much about them. But when conversations happen, I think that it is a good idea to have it be suggestive of the subject’s positive comfort-level with you as a journalist and leave it at that; what I absolutely detest is the idea of a journalist sugarcoating a subject – in fact, I find that nauseating.
I think a journalist (or a blogger) should be true to themselves, at the end of the day, that interviewing someone (or doing a profile on someone) is about providing a journalist’s (or a blogger’s) very own angle on an individual. Most journalists (or bloggers) also spend a good amount of time with their research on a subject, before spending time with them long enough to get the subject to make public their true self, for these journalists (or bloggers).
For interviews, I think investigative interviews and informational interviews are the most revealing types of interviews no matter which topic area it is done in. Although the definition of what makes a person interesting enough varies, it is not odd if journalists choose non-famous people, for example maybe a woman who has been making a living selling fruits at a circus just won the national lottery, could be an interesting subject of an interview.
Traditionally, doing a profile is a more demanding task than simply interviewing a subject because a profile of an individual is a sketch or a study or an analysis of the individual, whereas an interview tends to be looked at as an opportunity to grill a subject over noteworthy information. I feel the hardest part as a journalist (or as a blogger) is to create a friendly equation, with a subject that you have to do an interview off (or do a profile on).
I think being a professional is always a good beginning, and then you have to slowly (and softly) build an equation with your subject that steers into a favourable directive – I guess being talkative, food and an informal place helps with that but what is needed is for the directive to be personally-pleasing to the journalist (or blogger) because without it, the feature story will not work out the way all-your-hours-spent-on-preparation meant it to. A great story in journalism is always about providing a rare insight and extracting something great and new from a subject (through a professionally-friendly equation with them) – and if not, there is always a good and informative story to turn to.