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For a moment last week, I was worried sick about Washington Post staff writer Eli Saslow. After what happened to him, you could only wonder how he could carry on, how he could put one foot in front of the other. Talk about lows.
For the few of you who hadn’t been tracking this calamity, consider this: One of Saslow’s stories appeared on page A08.
Unspeakable. Prior to this slight, Saslow had placed 15 consecutive pieces on A01, stretching back to June 2009. The streak was broken, just for a second, with a piece that appeared on the front of the Style section. Then the A01 sauce starts flowing again, all the way back to President Obama’s inauguration.
Saslow works in a rarefied spot at the Post—-its national enterprise team, a place peopled by Pulitzer winners like David Finkel and Anne Hull. “Enterprise” means that you work longer on your stories, seeding them with some narrative and investigative elements. If they don’t land on A01, you’re in trouble.
Saslow didn’t particularly want to answer questions about his relationship with the front page, which was all the more reason to force him to:
City Desk: Is there something in your contract that says all your stories have to appear on A01?
Saslow: No, man. I mean, I guess I have luckiness in my contract.
City Desk: Do you have a contract?
Saslow: No. Do any journalists have a contract?
City Desk: What is the agreement, then?
Saslow: I don’t know, man. I guess I feel like I owe it to the paper to get a decent number of my stories on A1, since I’m given so much time and space to produce them.
City Desk: Were you pissed when you landed on A08?
Saslow: No, I was decidedly not. That story is my new No. 1 clip.
City Desk: What about your streak? You worried about that?
Saslow: No, I have not kept track of my streak. What I keep track of is anxiety about not being in the paper or just anxiety about wanting to be in the paper. A1 is great, obviously, but I also think there are now a million other measures about whether a story is popular….There are plenty of measures by which I can fail.
City Desk: After that whole A08 thing, did you think you’d ever land back on A01 again?
Saslow: I don’t know, man. I was just hoping to write again. The A8 [thing] really did not bother me. I didn’t even know what page that story landed on.
City Desk: How do you get along with the folks who spend a lot of time on A02 through A20?
Saslow: I mean, I hope I get along with them well. I am sure that I will end up spending a lot of time on page A2 through A20, and probably that time will start when this blog post runs. I hope this blog post runs on page C96.