Eli Sanders, CC ’99, just won a Pulitzer for his harrowing feature, “The Bravest Woman in Seattle,” in the Seattle weekly, The Stranger. Bwog called him to figure out how journalism works.

Bwog: So what was your major?

Eli: Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures, I don’t know if they have that anymore. MEALAC?

Bwog: Yeah, they changed it to MESAAS just a little bit ago. What did you think of the Core?

Eli: I really liked it, I enjoyed it. I went to public schools in Seattle, and a lot of other students from prep schools and private schools had read these books. I hadn’t, so I really appreciated it.

Bwog: And has it been useful?

Eli: I appreciate it even more now. A lot of what you’re reading is really great stories, and if your job is to write good stories, at least, it’s really helpful.

Bwog: Awesome. Is there a big difference between campus journalism and the real thing?

Eli: Well, you get paid. And you get benefits. But it’s still a bunch of writers in a room trying to put out a good paper or publication.

Bwog: You were on Spec. What is your most ridiculous undergraduate reporting experience?

Eli: [laughs] The most absurd thing that happened to me: at the Spec Blue Pencil Dinner, which they still have, Andy Rooney was the speaker. That was the year I was editor, or maybe the year before. And I knew him, but didn’t really what he was all about. Anyways, we’d been drinking and eating. And we took a picture, and I was next to Andy Rooney. There I was with my junior and senior year Jew-fro, and I just imagine him looking over and thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

Bwog: Do you still read Spec?

Eli: I don’t. I’m way out here in Seattle; I do keep up with New York news, but not so much campus stuff.

Bwog: Do you have a favorite fictional journalist?

Eli: I don’t think I ever spent time developing affinities for fictional journalists. I do have some favorite real journalists.

Bwog: Would you name some?

Eli: Capote, Mailer, new journalists. They weren’t perfect, but I admire the force of their writing.

Bwog: Any advice for hopeful journalists?

Eli: It’s harder than it was when I was starting, and that wasn’t too long ago. A lot of things have collapsed since then. I would say go into it with very clear eyes about what you’re getting into.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Headshot via elisanders.net