South Africa is a democracy with the highest GDP on the continent (seventh per capita), and Nelson Mandela’s 36-year-old grandson is leveraging his lineage into political and business success. Mandla Zwelivelile Mandela is the theme of this profile, from Farouk Chothia of BBC News, published July 19.
The subhead sums up who he is and what he’s doing. The first two grafs tell us how he got into the public eye (he became chief of the Traditional Council in Mvezo, Nelson Mandela’s birthplace, in 2007). The next two grafs are an anecdotal lede, as Harrower recommends opening with.
The subhead was really the nut graf, so from the anecdote we jump into chronology. The next section gives us an anecdote about his current political maneuvers. The last section is about his personal wealth and infatuation with the glitz of capitalism. We end with a sad quote:
“The goals of the liberation struggle have become completely distorted.”
The author studs the profile with meaningful anecdotes. The reporter doesn’t script long scenes. There was probably a tight word limit. He uses quotes very effectively. A photo of Mandla Zwelivelile Mandela in traditional Zulu garb covers his physical appearance.
This is a very good example of how to do a short profile. You can see where anecdotes could have expanded into novelistic little scenes quotes would could have expanded into dialogue. It’s good to learn how to write short. Longer tells a better story, but your editor may not trust readers to have long attention spans.