Don’t stop until you reveal conflict

As you develop features and profiles, don’t forget to focus on conflict, a driving force in all storytelling. A profile story without conflict is typically as exciting to read as someone’s resume. Don’t just cite someone’s accomplishments and stats, sprinkled with some general comments. Instead, tell stories that involve your characters, scenes, plots, and conflict. That means you’ll need to dig through articles, observe locations, and interview as many people as possible in order to find a compelling angle. During interviews, keep talking until you find a major conflict. Once this person starts talking, listen for visual markers and other specific details that will enable you to paint the story more clearly. If this information is not supplied, ask for it – “What was the weather like?” “Where were you standing?” “Describe the trail you ran on.” “What did the heat feel like?” There are a million ways to write a profile, or feature, but there is really one primary factor that drives these stories – conflict. So go find it. Your readers will be most thankful.


About jgisondi

I covered sports and worked as a sports copy editor for more than 20 years at several newspapers in Florida, including the Fort Myers News-Press, Clearwater Sun, Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. I started writing for a weekly sports publication in Coral Springs, Fla., at age 15. I have been hooked on sports journalism ever since. I was fortunate to have worked with some amazing editors along the way, journalists who took the time to help me even when my copy was not top-notch. Now, I teach journalism at Eastern Illinois University and work as an editor for, a vertical that focuses on Big Ten athletics. A second edition of the "Field Guide To Covering Sports" will be available sometime in February 2017. The book is a practical guide to preparing, observing, interviewing and writing about 20 different sports, from auto racing to wrestling. Chapters also address ways to cover high school sports, fantasy sports, to develop sports blogs. You can also learn how to cover games, to write features and to interview better. Fans can also learn basic rules of these sports, along with ways to better observe the action. New chapters in the second edition will address social media, advanced analytics, fantasy sports coverage and revised, expanded chapters address game coverage, features and columns, among other new sections.
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