Reporting and writing Newtown story left Washington Post reporter emotionally drained

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Paige Williams did a Q-and-A with Washington Post reporter Eli Saslow about his must-read Sunday profile of a couple who lost their 7-year-old son in the Newtown shootings.

He tells her:

I spent about a month working on it – two trips to Newtown, and then a week or more of writing. For most of that time the story occupied a good bit of my mind. I couldn’t shake it. Both the reporting and the writing had hard moments when I felt emotionally drained, but even writing that, to you, now feels lousy, because of course anything I experienced was fractional and irrelevant compared to the emotional toll I was writing about.

Williams asked Saslow if he stayed with the family while reporting the story.

No, it wouldn’t ever feel appropriate to me to stay with someone I was writing about. But I did spend all day with them, always. I traveled with them on the train to Delaware and I got a hotel room in the same hotel. Sometimes, when we were at their home and I sensed they needed a break, I would go into the room in their house where they stored all the mail they have received since the shooting, and I would go through some of that and soak it in.

The family’s reaction to the story?

They felt like it was right. That mattered a lot to me.

* The kind of story that can leave you limp for days (niemanstoryboard.org) | Saslow’s piece (washingtonpost.com)

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