It’s been another busy day in the office, but what’s great about these days is 1. they fly by, and 2. I have another fun project to report back to you! Basically today I compiled two humongo binders with all the info, gossip and interviews you could ever want on Celeb A and Celeb B — aka The Mag’s January and February Cover Girls.
These binders, also referred to as professional bios or packets, are used at tons of magazines for all kinds of interviews, not just cover stories. They’re compiled (often by interns), for a freelancer, staff writer, or even an award-winning contributor who will review the binder before going into the interview. Mine started off with a color photo on the cover, as well as a list of what would be found inside the binder: Previous Profiles and Magazine Features; Q&As; News Coverage; Tabloids and Gossip; Performance Reviews and Critiques; and any fun tidbits or taboo topics the author should know to reference politely, casually, or avoid altogether.
Fun, fun, fun. At least for the first few hours. The information you can find online is endless. Wikipedia and IMDB alone offer tons of info and links to articles. But when compiling everything, I really tried to keep in mind the human being who’ll have to read through this info later — aka, quality vs. quantity, because no one wants to flip through 800 pages of celeb reviews. (I mean, maybe some people do, but I’m assuming not a reporter with deadlines). But nonetheless, it still had to be thorough and informative.
Usually, this starts out with a quick bio/timeline, including the subject’s childhood, rise to fame, impressive accomplishments and upcoming projects. This is basically an overview of everything the reporter will find in the binder. Also, for the fun stuff, People.com offers quick celeb timelines, which my editors requested be included in the binder as well. A list of all the awards the subject had won followed.
I had actually worked on similar project at a past internship at a magazine that focuses even more heavily on profiles of dignitaries, cultural figures and celebrities. And surprisingly, these long and tedious tasks actually became first-rate reporting lessons. Because after compiling everything under the sun, the binder was sent to the reporter (who in this case, was a contributing editor at The Mag, not to mention an award-winning author and theater critic, known for his interviews with numerous cultural figures). He then, after reading it through, went off to interview the subject. After, he sent the audio recording back to the office, which of course, landed back on my desk. But transcribing offered a front row seat to the interview, and most importantly, an insider look at what info from the binder he had found interesting, what he didn’t, and mostly, how he approached each topic (because, yes, he absolutely touched on all those taboos with the utmost of class!). And once the transcription was back in his hands, the article was written and sent back to my editors, ready for review and edits, and in my lucky case, an intern sneak peak. And obviously, getting to see the final article in print just topped off the whole process — which all started with the tedious professional bio hunt.
I guess my point is that even the seemingly lame projects, if looked at from a positive angle — or as any editor or journalism professor would say, “approached with the right spin” — can lead to an exciting learning experience, and if nothing else, insight into the daily workings of the glorious magazine and reporting industry.
So what about you? How have you guys spun mundane projects into interesting mag lessons? Any suggestions for ways to approach the more tedious assignments?
Until next time,
Your Features Intern