Friday, November 26, 2010

An excellent example of an interview-based local feature

Commitscion Dipankar Paul (Class of 2009), who was also a co-editor of the college newspaper, recently interviewed Christel DeHaan, the founder of Christel House International, a network of schools in four continents. (Dipankar, a copy editor with India Syndicate, which produces MSN India's content, has taken all the photographs, too.)

The interview is up on the MSN website: "When poverty met Christel DeHaan, and lost".

Isn't that a great headline?

And read that intro (first two paragraphs) again to see how well-written it is, how it complements the photograph placed above it, and how it leads up to the crux of the story in the next three paragraphs.

And also study the transitions in the paragraphs below don't they work perfectly? 

DeHaan selects the principals of each school herself. She has promised to bear all administrative costs for the rest of her life. She has pledged her $4.3 million home to Christel House after her death.

"I feel blessed to be able to make a difference in the lives of so many children," she says. "The childhood I had was tough."

Tough does not convey half the story. DeHaan was born in Germany at the height of Nazi power. While Hitler was stomping all over Europe, her father, a German soldier, was killed in an American bombing raid.

DeHaan was raised in the ruins of post-War Germany by her mother. "My mother was my inspiration: I have learnt so much from her," she says.

Even though they were living in a time of need, "there was always place at the table. The neighbourhood children would often share our food." DeHaan says her mother never let her feel they were deprived.

And this, DeHaan says, is what brought her to what she does today. She had always wanted to help people, but it was an epiphanic trip to a children's home in Mexico in 1998 that made her realise how to.

In fact, the transitions throughout the article work beautifully. Well done, Dipankar!

  • UPDATE (September 5, 2013): Mark Nichol, the editor of the excellent Daily Writing Tips blog, has put together some helpful guidelines for those who want to know how to prepare for an interview and do a good job of it: "10 Interviewing Tips and Techniques".
  • UPDATE (December 2, 2013): In Mint Lounge today, Pavitra Jayaraman conjures up an accomplished feature on a regular Bangalore event: the Thursday mass at the city's Infant Jesus shrine. Read it here to understand how to extract the extraordinary from the seemingly ordinary: "Bangalore Bhath".

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