There are stories that creep up and remind us that there is no substitute in journalism for simply spending time with a subject. It’s a luxury many reporters don’t get, but what these stories reveal about the depth of humanity—the best and worst sides of it—make them so worth it.
The Boston Globe’s Sarah Schweitzer was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for last year’s “Chasing Bayla,” and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her nominated again for “The Life and Times of Strider Wolf,” in which she and photographer Jessica Rinaldi documented the difficult life of a young boy and his brother, rescued from near-fatal abuse, and sent to live with their grandparents, who face their own troubles. I sent her a few follow-up questions via email:
How did you find Strider and this family? And how much time did you spend with them, before and during the reporting process?
I was looking around for stories and I stumbled on a New Hampshire court decision rejecting Justin Roy’s (Strider’s mother’s boyfriend’s) appeal of his 55-year sentence for pummeling Strider. I wondered how Strider was doing and found a few follow-up stories online. They mentioned that he’d gone to live with his grandparents, which led me to the Grants.
Jessica Rinaldi, the photographer, and I tended to stay for a few days at a time and sort of embed. We’d show up at the campground(s) around 7 a.m. and stay until the Grants went to bed. All told, the reporting took five months.
As a reporter, how do you prepare Strider and the family for just what this project will entail?
I tried to be transparent and explained that Jess and I wanted to be flies on the wall for as much time as they could stand us. I said that there might be times when they’d need privacy and that they should feel like they could say they needed space. Lanette and Larry were tentative, which I totally understood. We were strangers asking to come into their home. But they got to know me and Jess, and after a while they (more or less) forgot about us when we were there.
What was their response to the story itself?
They were happy with it. It was raw and sad to read, of course. But it sounded like them, Lanette told me. And the community response has been pretty strong. A good number of people sent care packages and financial donations.
As for the Grants, they’re still in Lisbon, Maine in the rented house. Strider’s having a good school year and Gallagher is about to start a new school. The Grants are looking into adopting the boys.