Place Poetry: Riverbend Music Festival, Chattanooga, Tenn.

Well here’s the thing, you’re hard to buy for. 

And it’s true: 

Why don’t your parents trust you? 

It will be, as soon as the sun goes down. 

I’m trying to think about what to tell you, other than I love you. 

I want to be gold team because if you’re gold, you’re special. 


Place poetry: I collect words from places and stitch them together. Found art, kind of. 

What are some of the things it’s too late to do? What could you start now? What will you put off until it’s too late to do? How many slices of cheddar do you use to make a grilled cheese? 

Football practice with some pretty incredible women.

(Top) Olivia Swafford of the Chattanooga Locamotion, a professional women’s football team, runs hitting drills on the field at Red Bank High School where the group practices. 

(Bottom) She and Amanda Cunningham (right) practice defense. 


Photos for Chatter Magazine

Anonymous: Hi Eli, Thanks for doing this chat! You often write about people who are experiencing financial hardships or living in poverty. I'm wondering if there are situations in which you've felt compelled to help (i.e. buying a meal for a hungry child while you're interviewing a family). Are there cases in which you've had to let a troubling event or situation play out for a story?


Good question. There are often times when I feel compelled to help, but as a journalist I know that’s not what I’m there for. I tell myself (and I mostly believe this) that the best thing I can do for people is to write about their lives the way they actual are — not to sugarcoat it or help them in some small little way, but to try to write about them with honesty and empathy so that the wider world knows about their problems or struggles and understands a little better.

If you start reporting stories as an advocate — or if you start becoming an active catalyst in the lives of the people you write about — you are there for a different reason.

But sometimes there is still guilt in that kind of reporting. It doesn’t feel good — or quite right — to spend 16 hours with people who are hungry and then to go back to a hotel and eat a sandwich. If I was with people who were starving, of course I would buy them food. But, when I’m there with them, my job isn’t to alleviate their struggle but to illuminate it, if that makes sense.

Eli Saslow a) answered my question so well b) answered it at all and I’m elated. Thanks juliaccarpenter for putting together an opportunity for us journalism underlings to speak to a master.

I’m writing things again but you can’t see them just yet. They’re only okay now but I think soon they’ll be good-ish.