Part of what makes for a really good profile — and this is certainly true of the Strong profile — is the permission to draw blood. I’m not talking about a take-down. It’s something far more skillful, far more surgical. The New Yorker is historically excellent at this particular approach, sometimes described as letting the subject hang themselves with their own words: all you have to do is let those words lie there on the page (accompanied, of course, by writing and secondaries and scenes that elegantly accentuate them) and allow them to do their worst. I’ve seen New Yorker profiles achieve this effect with esteemed academics, with philanthropists, with tech bros, with politicians, and, in one of my most favorite recent examples, with Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens. The key is the profile subject never quite really knowing if the profile is insulting or not. Good reporting lets the facts hang together to form their own image.
The Particular Power of the Lancing Celebrity Profile