Eli Saslow returns to J-School

Students in the Pollner Seminar, along with faculty and other students, were treated to a visit from Pullitzer prize winning journalist Eli Saslow.

Monday, September 21st, For an hour and a half Saslow, who taught at the Journalism School as the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Professor in 2010, spoke on reporting and structuring long form narrative stories.

Photo of Eli Saslow
“I think that my best reporting comes when I’m the same version of myself in both places,” said Saslow.

Saslow, who writes for The Washington Post and ESPN the Magazine, described his work as an attempt to humanize the national issues of the day by telling the stories of people at their center. His stories have connected his readers with people for whom complex issues such as food insecurity or deportation are hard realities. To prepare for his visit, students in Kevin Van Valkenberg’s Pollner Seminar read Saslow’s article “After Newtown shooting, mourning parents enter into the lonely quiet,” in which he profiled the Bardens, a family who lost a son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

To capture the powerful emotions in the story, Saslow spent two weeks with the Bardens. Dedicated that kind of time to the subjects of his story is something he said is central to his reporting. Saslow repeatedly emphasized the importance of making subjects feel comfortable with a reporters presence, even during interviews. “Ask a question five minutes into the conversation, then ask the same question 50 minutes in and you get very different answers,” Saslow said.

Many of the students’ questions dealt with the emotional toils of Saslow’s reporting, along with the ethical questions he faces spending time with people in difficult situations. Saslow emphasized for students the importance of finding stories you can care about as a journalist, and of keeping an eye on the big picture and the impact well reported stories can carry. He also described the value in being as observant, and as much as possible unobtrusive, reporter.

“I’ve interviewed Obama in the oval office and I’ve interviewed other people who have never talked to a reporter,” Saslow said, “I think that my best reporting comes when I’m the same version of myself in both places.”

By Andrew Graham
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