Journalists read a piece of reporting and wonder how the story came to be – How did the reporter find this story? How did the she or he know to ask that question? What did it take to get that perspective?
Eli Saslow, reporter for the Washington Post, talked about the nuts and bolts of writing long-form stories with a group of aspiring journalists last week. Our group read two pieces of Eli’s work, one on a family’s struggle in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting and the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
The Denver native offered several interesting pieces of advice. Committing time to the story is the first step to get an in-depth look at a subject, Saslow said.
“Every extra day you put in a story makes it better,” he said.
Saslow works with sensitive topics, so his success as a writer relies on getting people to open up about difficult times in their lives. He shows commitment to interviewees and their stories. Often, he leaves his cellphone in another place. Leaving the technology behind means his subject has his full attention.
He recommends accompanying people over multiple days. The reporter’s job is to make the subject comfortable. When a person is comfortable, a reporter can get an authentic perspective of the subject’s world. Saslow does this by dressing casually – hooded sweatshirts are his hallmark – and being authentic.
“You have to be yourself when you’re reporting,” he said.
The final piece of advice he offered doubled as one of his goals. Saslow wants readers to “feel something” about the situations and people he covers. He does this by tying individual, feature stories to larger trends.
A chance to see the world from the perspective of a 6-foot-2, aspiring human rights journalist. Will include lessons learned and reflections.