This recent piece from The New Yorker, written by Andrew Solomon (a writer on politics, culture and psychology) is an incredible example of a profile. For this post, I have analyzed only the first six grafs (presumably the lede and nut graf of this lengthy profile).
Solomon profiles the father, Peter Lanza, of the infamous Sandy Hook killer, Adam Lanza. Solomon acts like an old friend of Peter’s, referring to his “new house,” “second wife” and the handful of interviews they did that lasted up to seven hours each.
This profile of Peter has impact on readers because the writer:
- paints a portrait of Peter’s current mental and emotional state
- uses quotes sparingly and significantly (Ex. “Another time, he said, ‘You can’t get any more evil,’ and added, ‘How much do I beat up on myself about the fact that he’s my son? A lot.'”)
- provides appropriate background information that contributes to the overall focus of the piece (a look into the life and perspective of Peter)
- presents Peter as a human being, and a relatable one at that—one that was just as baffled by the Sandy Hook massacre as the rest of the world (Ex. “Interview subjects usually have a story they want to tell, but Peter Lanza came to these conversations as much to ask questions as to answer them.”)
Solomon’s technique is effective in creating a thoughtful, vividly honest profile of Peter, one that the world was (and many still are) blind to.
The full profile can be found here.