Longform

A weekly conversation with a non-fiction writer or editor on craft and career. Hosted by Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff.


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April 19, 2017

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His new book is Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

“The more stories I reported over time, the more I just realized there are parts of the story I can’t always get to. You know, unless this is a reality show and there’s 18 cameras in every room, and people [talk] before they sleep, and maybe you have some mind-bug in their brain for their unconscious, there are just parts you’re just not gonna know. You get as close as you can. And so the struggle to me is to get as close as I can, to peel it back as close as I can, but understanding that there will be elements, there will be pieces, that will remain lingering doubts.”

Thanks to Stamps.com, Squarespace, and MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

April 12, 2017

Alex Kotlowitz is a journalist whose work has appeared in print, radio, and film. He’s the author of three books, including There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America.

“The truth of the matter is, given what we do, we’re always outsiders. If it’s not by race or class, it’s by gender, religion, politics. It’s just the nature of being a nonfiction writer—going into communities that, at some level, feel unfamiliar. If you’re writing about stuff you already know about, where’s the joy in that? Where’s the sense of discovery? Why bother?”

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April 5, 2017

Brian Reed, a senior producer at This American Life, is the host of S-Town.

“It’s a story about the remarkableness of what could be called an unremarkable life.”

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March 29, 2017

Hrishikesh Hirway is the host of Song Exploder.

“I love the idea that somebody would listen to an episode [of Song Exploder] and then the feeling that they would have afterwards is, ‘Now I want to make something.’ That’s the best possible reaction. Whether it’s music or not, just that idea: ‘I want to make something.’ Because that is the thing that I love most, getting that feeling.”

Thanks to MailChimp and MeUndies for sponsoring this week’s episode.

March 22, 2017

Sheelah Kolhatkar is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.

“Suddenly the financial crisis happened and all this stuff that had been hidden from view came out into the open. It was like, ‘Oh, this was actually all kind of a big façade.’ And there was all this fraud and stealing and manipulation and corruption, and all these other things going on underneath the whole shiny rock star surface. And that really also demonstrated to people how connected business stories, or anything to do with money, are to everything else going on. I mean, really almost everything that happens in our world, if you trace it back to its source, it’s money at the root of it.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Blue Apron, and Stamps.com for sponsoring this week’s episode.

March 15, 2017

Al Baker is a crime reporter at The New York Times, where he writes the series “Murder in the 4-0.”

“When there’s a murder in a public housing high rise, there’s a body on the floor. Jessica White in a playground, on a hot summer night. Her children saw it. Her body fell by a bench by a slide. You look up and there’s hundreds of windows, representing potentially thousands of eyes, looking down on that like a fishbowl. …They’re seeing it through the window and they can see that there’s a scarcity of response. And then they measure that against the police shooting that happened in February when there were three helicopters in the air and spotlights shining down on them all night and hundreds of officers with heavy armor going door to door to door to find out who shot a police officer. They can see the difference between a civilian death and an officer death.”

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March 8, 2017

Caity Weaver is a staff writer at GQ.

“I always try to remember: you don’t have to tell people what you’re not good at. You don’t have to remind them of what you’re not doing well or what your weak points are. Don’t apologize for things immediately. Always give a little less information than they need. Don’t overshare.”

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March 1, 2017

Matthew Cole is an investigative reporter at The Intercept, where he recently published “The Crimes of Seal Team 6.”

“I’ve gotten very polite and very impolite versions of ‘go fuck yourself.’ I used to have a little sheet of paper where I wrote down those responses just as the vernacular that was given to me: ‘You’re a shitty reporter, and I don’t talk to shitty reporters.’ You know, I’ve had some very polite ones, [but] I’ve had people threaten me with their dogs. Some of it is absolutely cold.”

Thanks to Squarespace, Blue Apron, and MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

February 22, 2017

Alexis C. Madrigal is an editor-at-large for Fusion, where he’s producing the upcoming podcast, Containers.

“Sometimes you think like, ‘Man the media business is the worst. This is so hard.’ When you spend time with all these other business people, you probably are going to say, ‘Capitalism is the worst. This is hard.’ Competition that’s linked to global things is so hard because global companies are locked in this incredible efficiency battle that just drives all of the slack out of the system. Like media, there’s no slack left, and I don’t know where things go after that.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Stamps.com, and Casper for sponsoring this week’s episode.

February 15, 2017

Ana Marie Cox is the senior political correspondent for MTV News, conducts the “Talk” interviews in The New York Times Magazine, and founded Wonkette.

“When people are sending me hate mail or threats, one defense I have against that is ‘you don’t know me.’ You know? That wasn’t something I always was able to say. As I’ve become a stronger person, it’s been easier for me to be like, ‘The person they’re attacking, it’s not me.’”

Thanks to MailChimp, Squarespace, and Blue Apron for sponsoring this week’s episode.

February 8, 2017

Brooke Gladstone is the host of On the Media.

“I’ve learned so much about how easy it is to redefine reality in this era of billions of filter bubbles. How easy it is to cast doubt on what is undeniably true. And I think that that’s what frightens me the most. I actually think that’s what frightens most people the most. How do we make sure that we all live in the same world? Or do we?”

Thanks to MailChimp, Texture, and School of the Art Institute of Chicago for sponsoring this week’s episode.

February 1, 2017

Ezra Edelman is the director of O.J.: Made in America.

“When I say what I learned is that America is even more fucked up than I had previously thought, it’s that—the superficiality of it. How we are willingly seduced by these shiny people and these shiny things. And, again, when I looked at O.J.’s trajectory, that was an operating principle.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Squarespace, Casper, and Secrets, Crimes, & Audiotape for sponsoring this week’s episode.

January 25, 2017

Alexey Kovalev is a Moscow-based journalist and the author of the recent article, “A Message to My Doomed Colleagues in the American Media.”

“It’s really disheartening to see how little it takes for people to start believing in something that directly contradicts the empirical facts that they are directly confronting. The Russian TV channel tells you that the pill is red, but the pill in front of you is blue. It completely alters the perception of reality. You don’t know what’s real anymore.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Penn State World Campus.

January 18, 2017

Jeff Sharlet writes about politics and religion for Esquire, GQ, New York Times Magazine, and more.

“I like the stories with difficult people. I like the stories about people who are dismissed as monsters. I hate the term ‘monster.’ ‘Monster’ is a safe term for us, right? Trump’s a monster. Great, we don’t need to wrestle with, ‘Uh oh, he’s not a monster. He’s in this human family with us.’ I’m not normalizing him. I’m acknowledging the fact. Now, what’s wrong with us? If Trump is human, what’s wrong with you?”

Thanks to MailChimp, Squarespace, and Blue Apron for sponsoring this week’s episode.

January 11, 2017

Jace Clayton is a music writer and musician who records as DJ /rupture. His book is Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture.

“What does it mean to be young and have some sound inside your head? Or to be in a scene that you want to broadcast to the world? That notion of the world is changing, who you’re broadcasting to is changing, all these different things—the tool sets. But there’s this very fundamental joy of music making. I was like, ‘Ok. Let’s find flashpoints where interesting things are happening and can be unpacked that shed different little spotlights on it, but do fall into this wider view of how we articulate what’s thrilling to be alive right now.’”

Thanks to MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

January 4, 2017

Terry Gross is the host and co-executive producer of Fresh Air.

“Part of my philosophy of life is that you have to live with a certain amount of delusion. And part of the delusion I live with is that maybe, from experience, I’m getting a little bit better. But then the other part of me, the more overpowering part of me, is the pessimistic part that says, ‘It’s going to be downhill from here.’ I try not to judge myself too much because I’m so self-judgmental that I don’t want to over-judge and get into too much of ‘Am I better than I was yesterday, or not?’”

Thanks to MailChimp, Squarespace, and Blue Apron for sponsoring this week’s episode.

December 21, 2016

Ta-Nehisi Coates is the author of Between the World and Me and a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His latest cover story is “My President Was Black.”

“[People] have come to see me as somebody with answers, but I don’t actually have answers. I’ve never had answers. The questions are the enthralling thing for me. Not necessarily at the end of the thing getting somewhere that’s complete—it’s the asking and repeated asking. I don’t know how that happened, but I felt like after a while it got to the point where I was seen as having unique answers, and I just didn’t. I really, really didn’t.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Casper, and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode.

December 14, 2016

Hua Hsu writes for The New Yorker and is the author of A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific.

“I remember, as a kid, my dad telling me that when he moved to the United States he subscribed to The New Yorker, and then he canceled it after a month because he had no idea what any of it was about. You know, at the time, it certainly wasn’t a magazine for a Chinese immigrant fresh off the boat—or off the plane, rather—in the early 70s. And I always think about that. I always think, ‘I want my dad to understand even though he’s not that interested in Dr.Dre.’ I still think, ‘I want him to be able to glean something from this.’”

Thanks to MailChimp, Texture, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

 

December 7, 2016

Carl Zimmer, a columnist for the New York Times and a national correspondent at STAT, writes about science.

“[Criticism] doesn’t change the truth. You know? Global warming is still happening. Vaccines still work. Evolution is still true. No matter what someone on Twitter or someone in an administration is going to say, it’s still true. So, we science writers have to still be letting people know about what science has discovered, what we with our minds have discovered about the world—to the best of our abilities. That’s our duty as science writers, and we can’t let these things scare us off.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

November 30, 2016

Wesley Lowery is a national reporter at the Washington Post, where he worked on the Pulitzer-winning project, “Fatal Force.” His new book is They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement.

“I think that we decided at some point that either you are a journalist or you are an activist. And I identify as a journalist, to be clear, but one of the reasons I often don’t engage in that conversation—when someone throws that back at me I kind of deflect a little bit—is that I think there’s some real fallacy in there. I think that every journalist should be an activist for transparency, for accountability—certainly amongst our government, for first amendment rights. There are things that by our nature of what we do we should be extremely activist.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Harry’s, Casper, and School of the Arts Institute of Chicago for sponsoring this week’s episode.

November 23, 2016

Adam Moss is the editor of New York Magazine.

“I think [change] is good for journalism—it’s what journalism is about. You can’t write about something static. News is about what is new. So there’s plenty of new right now. I’m not saying it’s good for the citizenry or anything like that, but, yeah, for journalists it’s an extremely interesting time. There’s no denying that.”

Thanks to MailChimp, BarkBox, Squarespace, and Sock Fancy for sponsoring this week’s episode.

November 16, 2016

Kyle Chayka is a freelance writer who writes for Businessweek, The Verge, Racked, The New Yorker, and more.

“I love that idea of form and content being the same. I want to write about lifestyle in a lifestyle magazine. I want to critique technology in the form of technology, and kind of have the piece be this infiltrating force that explodes from within or whatever. You want something that gets into the space, and sneaks in, and then blows up.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Texture for sponsoring this week’s episode.

November 11, 2016

Susan Casey is the former editor of O and the author of three New York Times bestselling books. Her latest is Voices in the Ocean: A Journey into the Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.

“The funny thing is people often say, ‘You must be fearless.’ I’m always afraid of whatever it is. But for whatever reason—I think it’s partly naïvety, partly just overwhelming curiosity—I am also not going to let fear stop me from doing things even if I feel it. Unless it’s that pure …you do have to listen to your body sometimes if it tells you not to do something that could result in you really never coming up from falling on that 70-foot wave.”

Thanks to MailChimp, HelloFresh, and Squarespace, and for sponsoring this week’s episode.

 

November 2, 2016

Wesley Morris is a critic at large for The New York Times, a staff writer for The New York Times Magazine, and the co-host of Still Processing. His latest article is “Last Taboo: Why Pop Culture Just Can’t Deal With Black Male Sexuality.”

“You learn a lot of things about your sexuality at an early age. You know, I learned that your penis is a problem for white people, that you can’t be too openly sexual in general because that could get you in trouble because someone could misconstrue what you’re doing, and, in my case, I also knew I was gay. So I had to deal with, ‘Ok so my dick is a problem in general, and I’m not even interested in putting my penis where it’s supposed to go. This is going to be bad.’”

Thanks to Audible, Casper, Squarespace, and MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

October 26, 2016

Doreen St. Félix is a writer at MTV News.

“It feels like there are images of black utopias that are arising. And you can’t—even if you’re not as superstitious as me—you can’t possibly think that that doesn’t have to do with the decline, the final, to me, last gasp of white supremacy. It really does feel like we’re approaching that, [but] that approach might be a thousand years.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Texture, Harry’s, and HelloFresh, for sponsoring this week’s episode.

October 19, 2016

Emily Witt is a freelance writer and the author of Future Sex.

“I think I had always thought that—maybe this is coming from a WASPy, protestant background—if I presented myself as overtly sexual in any way, it would be a huge turnoff. That they would see me as a certain type of person. They wouldn’t have respect for me. And I thought this both professionally—I thought maybe writing this book was going to be really bad for my career, that nobody would take me seriously anymore—and also that nobody would want to date me if I was too honest. In both counts the opposite happened.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Wunder Capital for sponsoring this week’s episode.

October 12, 2016

Krista Tippett is the host of On Being and the author of Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

“Good journalists in newsrooms hold themselves to primitive standards when they’re covering religious ideas and people. They’re sloppy and simplistic in a way that they would never be with a political or economic person or idea. I mean they get facts wrong. They generalize. Because they don’t take it seriously, and they don’t know how to take it seriously.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Winc, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

October 5, 2016

Luke Dittrich is a contributing editor at Esquire. His new book is Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets.

“As soon as I told [my mom] that I got my first book deal for this story about Patient H.M., her first words were, ‘Oh no.’ That was sort of her gut reaction to it because, I think, she knew at a certain level that I was going to be dredging up very painful stories. And I think at that point even she didn’t know the depth of the pain that some of the stories that I was going to find were going to lay out there.”

Thanks to MailChimp, EA SPORTS FIFA 17, Squarespace, Wunder, and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode.

September 28, 2016

A.J. Daulerio is the former editor-in-chief of Gawker.

“The choices they’ve given me are take back everything that you loved about Nick [Denton], Gawker, and your job, and we’ll give you your $1,000 back or your ability to make money. You can walk away from this, but you just can’t talk about it ever again. I don’t see there’s any question for me. I definitely thought long and hard about it, and I’ve talked to a lot of people about it. It’s just not in me. Some days I absolutely wish I could say, ‘Is there a phone call I could make to make this all go away?’ Because I want my life back. That’s happened. But for the most part I just think I would regret doing that.”

Thanks to MailChimp, EA SPORTS FIFA 17, School of the Arts Institute of Chicago, Casper, and Texture for sponsoring this week’s episode.

September 21, 2016

Julia Turner is editor-in-chief of Slate.

“That’s what we’ve been focused on: trying to double down on the stuff that feels distinctive and original. Because if you spend all your time on a social platform, and a bunch of media brands are optimizing all their content for that social platform, all those media brands’ headlines say the same, all the content is pretty interchangeable. It turns media into this commodity where then what is the point of developing a media company for 20 years? You might as well take the Silicon Valley approach and just make a new one every three years for whatever that moment is.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Igloo for sponsoring this week’s episode.

September 14, 2016

Naomi Zeichner is editor-in-chief of The Fader.

“Right now in rap there’s kind of a huge tired idea that kids are trying to kill their idols, and kids have no respect for history, and kids are making bastardized crazy music, and how dare they? I just don’t even know why we still care about this false dichotomy. Kids are coming from where they come from, they’re going where they’re going. And it’s like, do you want to try to learn about where they’re coming from and where they’re going, or do you not?”

Thanks to MailChimp, Club W, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

 

September 7, 2016

Ben Taub is a contributing writer at The New Yorker.

“I don’t think it’s my place to be cynical because I’ve observed some of the horrors of the Syrian War through these various materials, but it’s Syrians that are living them. It’s Syrians that are being largely ignored by the international community and by a lot of political attention on ISIS. And I think that it wouldn’t be my place to be cynical when some of them still aren’t.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

August 31, 2016

Sarah Schweitzer is a former feature writer for the Boston Globe.

“I just am drawn, I think, to the notion that we start out as these creatures that just want love and were programmed that way—to try to find it and to make our lives whole. We are, as humans, so strong in that way. We get knocked down, and adults do some horrible things to us because adults have had horrible things done to [them]. There are some terrible cycles in this world. But there’s always this opportunity to stop that cycle. And there are people who come along who do try that in their own flawed ways.”

Thanks to MailChimp and AlarmGrid for sponsoring this week’s episode.

August 24, 2016

Rachel Monroe is a freelance writer based in Texas.

“I will totally go emotionally deep with people. If I can find a subject who is into that then it will probably be a good story. Whether that person is a victim of a crime, or a committer of a crime, or a woman who spends a lot of time on the internet looking for hoaxes, or whatever it may be—I guess I just think people are interesting. Particularly when those people have gone through some sort of extreme situation.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Club W, and Igloo for sponsoring this week’s episode.

August 19, 2016

McKay Coppins is a senior political writer for Buzzfeed News and the author of The Wilderness: Deep Inside the Republican Party’s Combative, Contentious, Chaotic Quest to Take Back the White House.

“I am part of the problem. Not in the sense that it’s my fault Trump ran, but in the sense that I’m one of many who for his entire life have mocked him and ridiculed him. He’s a billionaire—I don’t feel any moral guilt about it. But if being I’m honest with myself that same part of me can also, when not checked, be projected onto vast swathes of people. It’s easy to have a lazy classism about the type of people who would vote for Donald Trump.”

Thanks to MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

Show Notes:

August 16, 2016

Gabriel Sherman is the national affairs editor at New York and the author of the New York Times best-seller The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country.

“There was a time when we got death threats at home. Some crank called and said, ‘We’re gonna come after you. You’re coming after the right, we’re gonna get you.’ That was scary because, again, you don’t know if it’s just a crank when you have right wing websites that are turning you into a target. You know, it’s one thing if they do it with a politician. They have security or handlers—I don’t have any of that.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode.

August 10, 2016

Ezra Klein the editor-in-chief of Vox.

“I think that if any of these big players collapse, when their obits are written, it’ll be because they did too much. I’m not saying I think any of them in particular are doing too much. But I do think, when I look around and I think, ‘What is the danger here? What is the danger for Vox?’ I think it is losing too much focus because you’re trying to do too many things.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Casper, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

August 3, 2016

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His new podcast is Revisionist History.

“The amount of criticism you get is a constant function of the size of your audience. So if you think that, generously speaking, 80% of the people who read your work like it, that means if you sell ten books you have two enemies. And if you sell a million books you have 200,000 enemies. So be careful what you wish for. The volume of critics grows linearly with the size of your audience.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

 

July 27, 2016

Ellis Jones is the editor-in-chief of VICE Magazine.

“I’m just not an edgy person. You know what I mean? I think I am a nice person. I think VICE Magazine reflects the qualities that I want to have or think that I have or that my team has. The magazine would be terrible if I tried to make edgy content … people would just see right through it. It wouldn’t be good.

Thanks to MailChimp and EveryLibrary for sponsoring this week’s episode.

July 20, 2016

David Remnick is the editor of The New Yorker.

“I think it’s important — not just for me, but for the readers — that this thing exists at the highest possible level in 2016, in 2017, and on. That there’s a continuity to it. I know, because I’m not entirely stupid, that these institutions, no matter how good they are, all institutions are innately fragile. Innately fragile.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, EveryLibrary, and Igloo for sponsoring this week’s episode.

July 13, 2016

T. Christian Miller, senior investigative reporter at ProPublica, and Ken Armstrong, staff writer at The Marshall Project, co-wrote the Pulitzer-winning article, “An Unbelievable Story of Rape.”

“I won’t forget this: when T. and I talked on the phone and agreed that we were going to work on [“An Unbelievable Story of Rape”] together, T. created a Google Drive site, and we decided we’d both dump all our documents in it. And I remember seeing all the records that T. had gathered in Colorado, and then I dumped all the records that I had gathered in Washington, and it was like each of us had half of a phenomenal story. And in one day, by dumping our notes into a common file, we suddenly had a whole story.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Squarespace, and Trunk Club for sponsoring this week’s episode.

July 6, 2016

Jack Hitt contributes to Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, and This American Life.

“I’ve always lived more or less unemployed in these markets, and happily so. I think being unemployed keeps you a little more sharp in terms of looking for stories. It never gets any easier. That motivation and that desperation, whatever you want to call that, is still very much behind many of the conversations I have all day long trying to find those threads, those strings, that are going to pull together and turn into something.”

Thanks to MailChimp, Audible, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

  1. @JackHitt
  2. Hitt on Longform
  3. [1:15] Episode #157: Margo Jefferson
  4. [1:30] Episode #129: Rukmini Callimachi
  5. [1:30] Episode #156: Renata Adler
  6. [3:15] “This Is Your Brain on God” (Wired • Nov 1999)
  7. [3:45] “61: Fiasco!” (This American Life • Apr 1997)
  8. [4:00] Hitt’s This American Life Archive
  9. [4:30] “323: The Super” (This American Life • Jan 2007)
  10. [6:15] “The Billion-Dollar Shack” (New York Times Magazine • Dec 2000)
  11. [6:30] “Slumlord” (The Moth • Apr 2006)
  12. [25:30] “The $19,000 press pass: A former journalism school dean asks, is it work it?” (Carolyn Lewis • Washington Monthly • 1986)
  13. [32:00] The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence (Victor Marchetti & John D. Marks • Alfred A. Knopf • 1974)
  14. [37:00] “What Did Noah Do With the Manure?” (Washington Monthly • Feb 1987) [pdf]
  15. [38:00] “Terminal Delinquents” (with Paul Tough • Esquire • Dec 1990)
  16. [41:30] “Toxic Dreams” (Harper’s • Jul 1995) [sub req’d]
  17. [46:30] White Noise (Don DeLillo • Penguin Books • 1984)
  18. [55:30] “15: Dawn” (This American Life • Feb 1996)

 

June 29, 2016

Kathryn Schulz is a staff writer for The New Yorker. “The Really Big One,” her article about the rupturing of the Cascadia fault line, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.

“I can tell you in absolute sincerity: I didn’t realize I was writing a scary story. Obviously I know the earthquake is going to be terrifying, and that our lack of preparedness is genuinely really scary. But, as I think often happens as a reporter, you toggle between professional happiness, which is sometimes, frankly, even professional glee—you’re just so thrilled you’re getting what you’re getting—and then the sort of more human and humane response, which comes every time you really set down your pen and think about what it is you’re actually reporting about.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.

June 27, 2016

Shane Bauer, a senior reporter for Mother Jones, spent four months working undercover as a guard in a private prison.

“The thing that I grappled with the most afterward was a feeling of shame about who I was as a guard and some of the things that I had done. Sending people to solitary confinement is hard to come to terms with even though, in that situation, I don’t know what else I could have done. … I had to do what I could to keep myself safe.”

Thanks to MailChimp for sponsoring this week’s episode.

June 22, 2016

Frank Rich, a former culture and political columnist for The New York Times, writes for New York and is the executive producer of Veep.

“All audiences bite back. If you have an opinion—forget about whether it’s theater or politics. If it’s about sports, fashion, or food—it doesn’t really matter. Readers are gonna bite back. And they should, you know? Everyone’s entitled. Everyone’s a critic. Everyone should have an opinion. You’re not laying down the law, and people should debate it.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Casper for sponsoring this week’s episode.

June 19, 2016

Louisa Thomas, a former writer and editor at Grantland, is a New Yorker contributor and the author of Louisa. Her father Evan Thomas, a longtime writer for Newsweek and Time, is the author of several award-winning books, including last year’s Being Nixon.

“That’s one thing I’ve learned from my dad: the capacity to be open to becoming more open.”

Thanks to MailChimp’s Freddie and Co. for sponsoring this bonus episode.


Show Notes:

 

June 15, 2016

Nikole Hannah-Jones covers civil rights for The New York Times Magazine.

“I don’t think there’s any beat you can cover in America that race is not intertwined with—environment, politics, business, housing, you name it. So, whatever beat you put me on, this is what I was going to cover because I think it’s just intrinsic. If you’re not being blind to what’s on your beat, then it’s part of the beat.”

Thanks to MailChimp’s Freddie and Co., Audible, and Trunk Club for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

 

June 8, 2016

Jon Favreau, former chief speechwriter for President Obama, is a columnist at The Ringer and co-host of Keepin’ It 1600.

“And then Obama comes over to my desk with the speech, and he has a few edits. And he’s like, ‘I just want to go through some of these edits and make sure you’re ok with this. I did this for this reason. Are you ok with that?’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, buddy. You’re Barack Obama.’”

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Show Notes:

June 1, 2016

Leah Finnegan, a former New York Times and Gawker editor, is the managing news editor at Genius.

“After the Condé Nast article, Nick Denton decided Gawker needed to be 20% nicer, and I took a buyout because I was not 20% nicer.”

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Show Notes:

May 25, 2016

Pablo Torre is a senior writer at ESPN the Magazine and frequently appears on Around the Horn, PTI, and other ESPN shows.

“Most of my friends are not sports fans. My parents aren’t. Brother and sister — no. So I just want to make things that they want to read. That’s the big litmus test for me in deciding if a story is worth investing my time into: Is somebody who doesn’t give a shit about sports gonna be interested in this?”

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Show Notes:

 

May 18, 2016

Robin Marantz Henig, the author of nine books, writes about science and medicine for The New York Times Magazine.

“I have my moments of thinking, ‘Well, why is this still so hard? Why do I still have to prove myself after all this time?’ If I were in a different field, or if I were even on a staff, I’d have a title that gave me more respect. I still have to wait just as long as any other writer to get any kind of response to a pitch. I still have to pitch. Nothing is automatic, even after all these years of working at this.”

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Show Notes:

May 11, 2016

Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and the author of The Killing of Osama Bin Laden.

“The government had denied everything we said. We just asked them and they said, ‘Oh no, not true, not true.’ That’s just—it’s all pro forma. You ask them to get their lie and you write their lie. I’m sorry to be so cynical about it, but that’s basically what it comes to.”

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Show Notes:

May 4, 2016

Kelly McEvers, a former war correspondent, hosts NPR’s All
Things Considered
and the podcast Embedded.

“Listeners want you to be real, a real person. Somebody
who stumbles and fails sometimes. I think the more human you are,
the more people can then relate to you. The whole point is not so
everybody likes me, but it’s so people will want to take my hand
and come along. It’s so they feel like they trust me enough to come
down the road with me. To do that, I feel like you need to be
honest and transparent about what that road’s like.”

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week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 29, 2016

Evan Ratliff, a co-host of the Longform Podcast, discusses
“The Mastermind,” his
new 7-part serialized story in The Atavist Magazine.

“On several occasions [sources] didn’t want to go into
the details of how they were identified. They were just like, ‘My
safety is in your hands. Just be careful.’ And I didn’t really know
what to do with that. I was sort of trying to balance what to
include and what not to include and trying to make these decisions.
Will Paul Le Roux know it’s this person? It’s impossible to know. I
tried to err on the side of caution, but there’s no ethics hotline
you can call and be like, ‘What do I do in this
situation?’”

 

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for making today’s episode possible.

April 27, 2016

Susie Cagle is a journalist and illustrator.

“I don’t really know what it was that made me not quit.
I still kind of wonder that. There have been many times over the
last couple of years even, as things are taking off in my career,
things are going well, I’m writing about wonderful things that are
interesting to me, and I still wonder—should I be doing this? What
the hell is next year gonna look like?”

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this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 20, 2016

Maciej Ceglowski is the founder of Pinboard. He writes at Idle Words.

“My natural contrarianism makes me want to see if I can do something long-term in an industry where everything either changes until it’s unrecognizable or gets sold or collapses. I like the idea of things on the web being persistent. And more basically, I reject this idea that everything has to be on a really short time scale just because it involves technology. We’ve had these computers around for a while now. It’s time we start treating them like everything else in our lives, where it kind of lives on the same time scale that we do and doesn’t completely fall off the end of the world every three or four years.”

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Show Notes:

April 13, 2016

Nate Silver is the founder of FiveThirtyEight and the author of The Signal and the Noise.

“I know in a perfectly rational world, if you make an 80/20 prediction, people should know that not only will this prediction not be right all the time, but you did something wrong if it’s never wrong. The 20% underdog should come through sometimes. People in sports understand that sometimes a 15 seed beats a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. That’s much harder to explain to people in politics.”

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Show Notes:

April 6, 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert has written for Spin, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. She is the author of several books, including Eat, Pray, Love.

“I call it the platinum rule. The golden rule is do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but the platinum rule is even higher: don’t be a dick.”

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Show Notes:

March 30, 2016

Gabriel Snyder is the editor-in-chief of The New Republic.

“I had a new job, I was new to the place, and I came to it with a great deal of respect but didn’t feel like I had any special claim to it. But in that moment I realized that there were all of these people who wanted to see the place die. And that the only way The New Republic was going to continue was by someone wanting to see it continue, and I realized I was one of those people now.”

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Show Notes:

March 23, 2016

Ben Smith is the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed.

“I do think as a reporter in general, most of what we deal in is ephemera. And I love that. I mean that’s the business, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think that’s a plus and something that shapes how you succeed at the job because you realize that this thing you’re writing is about this moment and right now, and about its place in the conversation. It’s not some piece of art to hang on the wall.”

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Show Notes:

March 16, 2016

Daniel Alarcón, a novelist and the co-founder of Radio Ambulante, has written for Harper’s, California Sunday, and the New York Times Magazine.

“I’m a writer. I’ve written a bunch of books, and I care a lot about my sentences and my prose and all that. But would I be willing to defend my book in a Peruvian prison? That’s a litmus test I think a lot of writers I know would fail.”

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Show Notes:

March 9, 2016

Jia Tolentino is the deputy editor of Jezebel.

“Insult itself is an opportunity. I’m glad to be a woman, and I’m glad not to be white. I think it’s made me tougher. I’ve never been able to assume comfort or power. I’m just glad. I’m glad, especially as you watch the great white male woke freak-out meltdown that’s happening right now, I’m glad that it’s good to come from below.”

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Show Notes:

March 2, 2016

Heather Havrilesky writes the Ask Polly advice column for New York and is the author of the upcoming How to Be a Person in the World.

“I don’t give a shit if I succeed or fail or what I do next, I just want to do things that are strange and not sound bitey. I don’t want to be polished. I want to be such a wreck that no one will ever say ‘let’s put her on her own talk show.’”

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Show Notes:

February 24, 2016

Wesley Yang writes for New York and other publications.

“If a person remains true to some part of their experience, no matter what it is, and they present it in full candor, there’s value to that. People will recognize it. Once I knew that was true, I knew I could do this.”

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Show Notes:

February 17, 2016

Mishka Shubaly is the author of I Swear I’ll Make It Up to You and several best-selling Kindle Singles.

“I remember thinking when I was shipwrecked in the Bahamas, ‘I’m going to fucking die here. I’m 24 years old, I’m going to die, and no one will miss me. I’m never going to see my mother again.’ And then the guy with the boat came around the corner and my first thought was ‘Man, this is going to be one hell of a story.’”

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Show Notes:

February 10, 2016

Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton host Another Round.

“I’m just trying to follow my curiosities. You know how kids always ask the best questions because they haven’t lost the will to live? I’m just desperately trying to keep that childish curiosity about the world. Is that horribly depressing?”

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Show Notes:

February 3, 2016

Michael J. Mooney is a staff writer at D Magazine and the author of The Life and Legend of Chris Kyle.

“There are some elements of crime stories that are so absurd that it’s funny, and so working on the “How Not to Get Away With Murder” story, it was actually really funny thinking about it for a long time. Until I met Nancy Howard, the woman who was shot in the face and has one eye now. This is her entire life, and it was destroyed. This is not a crime story to her, it’s her life.”

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Show Notes:

January 27, 2016

Alex Perry, based in England, has covered Africa and Asia for Newsweek and Time. His most recent book is The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free.

“I got a call from one of my editors in 2003 or 2004, and he said something like, ‘You realize someone has died in the first line of every story you’ve filed for the last eight months?’ And my response was, ‘Of course. Isn’t that how we know it’s important?’ It took me a long time to work out that the importance of a story isn’t established only by death.”

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Show Notes:

January 20, 2016

Grant Wahl is senior writer at Sports Illustrated and the author of The Beckham Experiment.

“I said to Balotelli, ‘I know you’re into President Obama. There’s a decent chance that he might read this story.’ He kind of perked up. I don’t think I was deliberately misleading him. There was a chance!”

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Show Notes:

January 13, 2016

Brooke Gladstone is the co-host of On the Media and the author of The Influencing Machine.

“I’m not going to get any richer or more famous than I am right now. This is it, this is fine — it’s better than I ever expected. I don’t have anything to risk anymore. As far as I’m concerned, I want to just spend this last decade, decade and a half, twenty years, doing what I think is valuable. I don’t have any career path anymore. I’m totally off the career path. The beautiful thing is that I just don’t have any more fucks to give.”

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Show Notes:

January 5, 2016

Venkatesh Rao is the founder of Ribbonfarm and the author of Breaking Smart.

“I would say I was blind and deaf and did not know anything about how the world worked until I was about 25. It took until almost 35 before I actually cut loose from the script. The script is a very, very powerful thing. The script wasn’t working for me.”

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Show Notes:

December 23, 2015

Doug McGray is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of California Sunday and Pop-Up.

“Your life ends up being made up of the things you remember. You forget most of it, but the things that you remember become your life. And if you can make something that someone remembers, then you’re participating in their life. There’s something really meaningful about that. It feels like something worth trying to do.”

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Show Notes:

December 16, 2015

Kliph Nesteroff writes for WFMU’s Beware of the Blog. His book, The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy, was released in November.

“Well, comedy always becomes stale. Whether it’s offensive or not offensive, it has an expiry date, unfortunately. A lot of people don’t want to hear this because that means a lot of their favorite comedians suddenly become irrelevant. But that’s the history of comedy: the hippest, coolest guy today—whoever that is to you in comedy—50 years from now, the new generation is going to say, ‘That guy’s not funny, and he’s square.’ And they’re going to say, ‘This new young guy is funny.’ But in another 50 years that guy becomes the square who isn’t funny. And it’s not that they weren’t funny and everybody was wrong; it was that that person was relating to their time.”

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Show Notes:

December 9, 2015

Adrian Chen is a freelance journalist who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and Wired. His latest article is “Unfollow,” about a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church.

“Twitter and social media get such a bad rep for being full of hate and trolls. And, you know, a lot of the stories I’ve written have probably bolstered that stereotype. I think a lot of people have a lot of anxiety and ambivalence about social media even though they love it—they’re on it all the time—and they’re kind of thinking of it as a vice, as something they should be ashamed of, as bad. But this is a very clear win. It’s not some abstract thing you could never measure. No, it’s like, [social media] really did cause her to leave the church.”

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Show Notes:

December 4, 2015

Aleksandar Hemon is a writer from Bosnia whose fiction and non-fiction has appeared in The New Yorker and Granta. His books include The Lazarus Project, The Question of Bruno, and The Book of My Lives.

“For me and for everyone I know, that’s the central fact of our lives. It’s the trauma that we carry, that we cannot be cured of. The way things are in Bosnia, it’s far from over. It’s not peace, it’s the absence of war. It’s always there as a possibility. There’s no way to imagine anything beyond a society defined by war.”

Thanks to The Standard Hotels, MailChimp, and Howl.FM for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

  1. aleksandarhemon.com
  2. Hemon on Longform
  3. [1:00] “The Aquarium” (The New Yorker • Oct 2014)
  4. [1:00] The Book of My Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 2013)
  5. [5:00] The Question of Bruno (Vintage • 2001)
  6. [23:00] Submission (Michel Houellebecq • Farrar, Straus and Giroux • 2015)
December 2, 2015

Chip Kidd is a book designer and author. His most recent book is Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts.

“The curious thing about doing a book cover is that you’re creating a piece of art, but it is in service to a greater piece of art that is dictating what you’re going to do. I may think I’ve come up with the greatest design in the world, but if the author doesn’t like it, they win. And I have to start over.”

Thanks to The Standard Hotels, MailChimp, Mack Weldon, Prudential, The Great Courses Plus, and “The Message” for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

  1. @chipkidd
  2. chipkidd.com
  3. [4:00] Kidd’s Amazon page
  4. [5:00] Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts (Harry N. Abrams • 2015)
  5. [5:00] “Judge This” (TED Books • 2015)
  6. [11:00] The Cheese Monkeys (Scribner • 2001)
  7. [11:00] The Learners (Workman Publishing Company • 2008)
  8. [11:00] Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design (Scribner • 2008)
  9. [15:00] Lawrence Wright on the Longform Podcast
  10. [16:00] The Looming Tower (Lawrence Wright • Knopf • 2008)
  11. [22:00] Charles Burns’s Black Hole cover
  12. [31:00] Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (Little Brown and Company • 2004)
  13. [35:00] What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Knopf • 2004)
  14. [35:00] Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack & the Japanese Psyche (The Harvill Press • 2000)
November 25, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent for The Atlantic. His latest book, Between the World and Me, just won the National Book Award.

“When I first came to New York, I couldn’t see any of this. I felt like a complete washout. I was in my little apartment, eating donuts and playing video games. The only thing I was doing good with my life was being a father and a husband. That was it. David [Carr] was a big shot. And he would call me in, just out of the blue, to have lunch. I was so low at that point. … He said, ​I think you’re a great bet. … He was remembering people who had invested in him when he was low. That more than anything is why I’m sad he’s not here for all of this. Because it’s for him. It’s to say to him, ​you were right​.”

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Thanks to MailChimp, Casper, Squarespace, MasterClass, and “The Message” for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

November 18, 2015

Kurt Andersen is the co-founder of Spy Magazine, the author of several books, and the host of Studio 360.

“As a young person, I never thought of myself as a risk-taker. Then I did this risky thing that shouldn’t have succeeded, I started this magazine. And it did encourage me to think, ‘Eh, how bad can it be if it fails? Sometimes these long shots work. So fuck it, try it.’”

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Show Notes:

November 11, 2015

Ed Caesar is a freelance writer based in England whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, British GQ, and The Sunday Times Magazine. He is the author of Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon.

“That was a really horrific situation. People were being killed in the street in front of us. People were firing weapons in all directions. It was really chaotic and quite scary. It freaked me out. And I thought, ‘Actually, there’s not a huge amount more of this I want to do in my life.’”

Thanks to MailChimp, MasterClass, The Message, RealtyShares, and Prudential for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

  1. @edcaesar
  2. edcaesar.co.uk
  3. Caesar on Longform
  4. [2:00] “House of Secrets” (New Yorker • Jun 2015) [sub req’d]
  5. [3:00] “Congo: The Horror” (GQ (UK) • Jan 2010)
  6. [3:00] “Tehran Nights” (GQ (UK) • Jun 2009)
  7. [4:00] We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families: Stories from Rwanda (Philip Gourevitch • Picador 1999)
  8. [5:00] “Blood Oil” (Sebastian Junger • Vanity Fair • Jun 2009)
  9. [7:00] “The Visit: Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s Life Inside” (The Independent • Sep 2011)
  10. [7:00] “Jon Bon Jovi” (The Independent • May 2006)
  11. [10:00] The Guardian Long Read
  12. [17:00] “Hell Is Other People” (GQ (UK) • May 2014)
  13. [22:00] Two Hours: The Quest to Run the Impossible Marathon (Simon & Schuster • 2015)
  14. [23:00] “Sammy Wanjiru: The Runner They Left Behind” (Sunday Times Magazine • Nov 2011)
November 4, 2015

Jazmine Hughes is an associate editor at The New York Times Magazine. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, ElleCosmopolitan, and The New Republic.

“You hope that one day when you’re the editor-in-chief of Blah, Blah, Blah, that you’ll wake up and be like, ‘Okay, I deserve my job.’ But so far I haven’t met anyone who has told me that they feel that way. But, I will say, I don’t talk to white men a lot.”

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Show Notes:

October 28, 2015

Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO’s Girls, is the co-founder of Lenny and the author of Not That Kind of Girl. A special episode hosted by Longform Podcast editor Jenna Weiss-Berman.

“Writing across mediums can be a really healthy way to utilize your energy and stay productive while not feeling entrapped. But at the end of the day, the time when I feel like life is most just, like, flying by and I don’t even know what’s happening to me is when I’m writing prose. It’s such an intimate relationship that you’re having. When you’re writing a script, you’re making a blueprint for something that doesn’t exist yet. But when you’re writing prose, the thing exists immediately. And that’s really satisfying. It’s the best place to go for my deepest and most in-the-now concerns.”

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Show Notes:

October 21, 2015

Matthew Shaer is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York, GQ, and The Atavist Magazine.

“I could not turn off the freelance switch in my head. I could not not be thinking about these different types of stories. My Google Alert list looks like a serial killer’s.”

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Show Notes:

October 14, 2015

John Seabrook is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory.

“Whether or not the piece succeeds or fails is not going to depend on whether I’m up to the minute on the latest social media spot to hang out or the latest slang words that are thrown around. It’s going to be the old eternal verities of structural integrity. So much of it is narrative and figuring out the tricks—and they are tricks, really—that make it go as a narrative. And that’s really the most interesting thing. Because you never ultimately have a formula that goes from piece to piece; it’s always going to have to be rediscovered every time you work on a long piece. And that’s kind of fun.”

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Show Notes:

October 7, 2015

Karina Longworth is a film writer and the creator/host of You Must Remember This, a podcast exploring the secret stories of Hollywood.

“For me the thing that’s exciting about it is that it’s research, and it’s reportage, and it’s criticism. But it’s also art. It’s creatively done. It’s drama. It consciously tries to engage people on that emotional level.”

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Show Notes:

September 30, 2015

Jessica Hopper is editor-in-chief of the Pitchfork Review and the author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic.

“I have an agenda. You can’t read my writing and not know that I have a staunch fucking agenda at all times.”

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Show Notes:

September 23, 2015

Ira Glass is the host and executive producer of This American Life.

“You can only have so many questions about feelings, I think. At some point people are just like alright, enough with the feelings.”

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Show Notes:

September 16, 2015

Peter Hessler is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“It may have helped that I didn’t have a lot of ideas about China. You know, it was sort of a blank slate in my mind. …I wasn’t a reporter when I went to Fuling, but I was thinking like a reporter or even like a sociologist: try to respond to what you see and what you hear, and not be too oriented by things you’ve heard from others or things you may have read. Be open to new perceptions of the place or of the people.”

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Show Notes:

September 9, 2015

Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has written for The New York Times, Newsweek, and Harper’s. Her latest book is Negroland: A Memoir.

“One of the problems with—burdens of—‘race conversations’ in this country is certain ideological, political, sociological narratives keep getting imposed. This is where the conversation should go, these are the roles we need. In a way, this is the comfort level of my discomfort. … Maybe we’re all somewhat addicted—I think we are—to certain racial conversations, with their limitations and their conventions.”

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Show Notes:

September 2, 2015

Renata Adler is a journalist, critic, and novelist. Her latest collection of nonfiction is After the Tall Timber.

“Unless you’re going to be fairly definite, what’s the point of writing?”

Thanks to MailChimp, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

  1. Adler on Longform
  2. Adler’s New Yorker archive
  3. [7:00] I, Libertine (Theodore Sturgeon • Ballantine Books • 1956)
  4. [8:00] After Tall Timber: Collected Nonfiction (Ballantine Books • 2015)
  5. [9:00] “Letter from Selma” (New Yorker • Apr 1965)
  6. [9:00] “Fly Trans-love Airways” (New Yorker • Feb 1967)
  7. [15:00] “Letter from Israel” (New Yorker • Jun 1967) [sub req’d]
  8. [17:00] “Letter from Biafra” (New Yorker • Oct 1969) [sub req’d]
  9. [34:00] Adler’s New York Times film reviews archive
  10. [47:00] “An American Original: Excerpts from Pat Moynihan’s letters” (Steven Weisman • Vanity Fair • Oct 2010)
  11. [50:00] “The Perils of Pauline” (The New York Review of Books • Aug 1980)
  12. [1:08:00] “Two Trials” (New Yorker • June 1986) [sub req’d]
  13. [1:09:00] Reckless Disregard: Westmoreland v. CBS, et al; Sharon v. Time (Knopf • 1986)
  14. [1:03:00] Gone: The Last Days of the New Yorker (Simon & Schuster • 1999)
  15. [1:10:00] “Decoding the Starr Report” (Vanity Fair • Dec 1998)
  16. [1:19:00] Canaries in a Mineshaft: Essay on Politics and Media (St. Martin’s Press • 2001)
August 26, 2015

S.L. Price is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated.

“The fact is, if you write about sports and people think they’re just reading about sports, they’ll read about drug use. They’ll read about sex. They’ll read about sex change. They’ll read about communism. They’ll read about issues they couldn’t possibly care about, issues that if they saw them in any other part of the paper they would just gloss over. But because it’s about sports—because there’s a boxing ring or a baseball field or a football field—they’ll be more patient and you can get some issues under the transom.”

Thanks to Pitt Writers and TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 19, 2015

William Finnegan is a New Yorker staff writer and the author of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life.

“I suppose in retrospect I was just trying to find out what the world held that nobody could tell me about until I got there. I was a big reader and had a couple of degrees by that point, but there was something not well over the horizon that I wanted to get near and record and understand, and I even felt like it would transform me.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, SquareSpace, and The Great Courses for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 12, 2015

Tim Ferriss is the author of The Four Hour Workweek and The Four Hour Body.

“If you have a fitness magazine, you can’t just write one issue, ‘Here are the rules!’ … My job, conversely, is to make myself obsolete. The last thing I want to be is a guru, someone people come to for answers. I want to be the person people come to for better questions.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and The Great Courses for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 5, 2015

Carol Loomis retired last summer after 60 years at Fortune. She continues to edit Warren Buffett’s annual report.

“Writing itself makes you realize where there are holes in things. I’m never sure what I think until I see what I write. And so I believe that, even though you’re an optimist, the analysis part of you kicks in when you sit down to construct a story or a paragraph or a sentence. You think, ‘Oh, that can’t be right.’ And you have to go back, and you have to rethink it all.” 

Thanks to TinyLetter and SquareSpace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:


Show Notes:

July 31, 2015

Noreen Malone wrote “Cosby: The Women — An Unwanted Sisterhood,” this week’s cover story in New York.

“We interviewed them all separately, and that was what was so striking: they all kept saying the same thing, down to the details of what they say Cosby did and how they processed it. Those echoes were what helped us know how to shape the story.”

Thanks to our sponsor, TinyLetter.


Show Notes:

July 29, 2015

Ian Urbina, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, just published “The Outlaw Ocean,” a four-part series on crime in international waters.

“It is a tribe. It has its norms, its language, and its jealousies. I approached it almost as a foreign country that happened to be disparate, almost a nomadic or exiled population. And one that has extremely strict hierarchies—you know when you’re on a ship that the captain is God.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Casper for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 22, 2015

Margaret Sullivan is the public editor of The New York Times.

“Jill Abramson said to me early on, ‘What will happen here is you’ll stick around and eventually you’ll alienate everybody, and then no one will be talking to you, and you’ll have to leave.’ I’m about three-quarters of the way there.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Netflix for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 15, 2015

Tavi Gevinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie.

“I just want our readers to know that they are already smart enough and cool enough.”

Thanks to our sponsor, TinyLetter.


Show notes:

July 8, 2015

Ross Andersen is the deputy editor of Aeon Magazine.

“One of the things that’s been really refreshing in dealing with scientists—as opposed to say politicians or most business people—is that scientists are wonderfully candid, they’ll talk shit on their colleagues. They’re just firing on all cylinders all the time because they traffic in ideas, and that’s what’s important to them.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and AlarmGrid for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 1, 2015

Anna Holmes, the founding editor of Jezebel, writes for The New York Times and is the editorial director of Fusion.

“I think that Jezebel contributed to what I now call ‘outrage culture,’ but outrage culture has no sense of humor. We had a hell of a sense of humor, that’s where it splits off. … The fact that people who are incredibly intelligent and have interesting things to say aren’t given the room to work out their arguments or thoughts because someone will take offense is depressing to me.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

June 24, 2015

James Verini, a freelance writer based out of Nairobi, won the 2015 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.

“That is probably the most alien, jarring thing about working in Africa: life is much cheaper. More to the point, death is very close to you. We’re very removed from death here. Someone can die at 89 in their sleep here and it’s called a tragedy. In Africa, I find that I’m often exposed to it. That’s part of why I wanted to live there.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Trunk Club for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

June 17, 2015

Rembert Browne is a staff writer at Grantland.

“I’m ok with not being at my most refined online. It’s happening in real time and some of that is therapeutic. I could write a lot this stuff privately, but I’d rather just hit publish and see what happens. It’s a weird world. But I’m super deep in.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter, Trunk Club, and QuickBooks Self-Employed.


Show Notes:

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June 10, 2015

Ashlee Vance covers technology for Bloomberg Businessweek and is the author of of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future.

“To be totally clear, I don’t cover them (apps). I like people who try to solve big problems. Wherever I go, I try to run away from the consumer stuff. I love writing about giant manufacturing plants that make stuff and employ tens of thousands of people.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter, Trunk Club, QuickBooks, and The School of Continuing Education at Columbia University.


Show Notes:

June 3, 2015

Cheryl Strayed is the author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things.

“There’s a long history, of women especially, saying ‘Well, I just got lucky.’ I didn’t just get lucky. I worked my fucking ass off. And then I got lucky. And if I hadn’t worked my ass off, I wouldn’t have gotten lucky. You have to do the work. You always have to do the work.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Trunk Club, and HP Matter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

May 27, 2015

Masha Gessen has written for The New York Times, The London Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and others. Her book about Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy, came out in April.

“The moment she said it, it was obvious that I’d been created to write this story. I’d covered both wars in Chechnya. I’d covered a lot of terrorism. I’d studied terrorism. And I’d been a Russian-speaking immigrant in Boston, which actually is the most important qualification for writing this book. It didn’t give me special knowledge, but it gave me a lot of questions that I knew to ask that other people wouldn’t.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Trunk Club, and Casper, for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

May 20, 2015

Sarah Maslin Nir, a reporter for The New York Times, recently published an exposé of labor practices in the nail salons of New York.

“The idea of a discount luxury is an oxymoron. And it’s an oxymoron for a reason: because someone is bearing the cost of that discount. In nail salons it’s always the person doing your nails, my investigation found. That has put a new lens on the world for me.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Trunk Club, and Aspiration for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

  1. @SarahMaslinNir
  2. sarahmaslinnir.flavors.me
  3. [1:00] “The Price of Nice Nails” (New York Times • May 2015)
  4. [1:00] “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers” (New York Times • May 2015)
  5. [12:00] “Saying Court Win Helps, Nail Salon Workers Rally” (New York Times • Apr 2012)
  6. [30:00] “Fighting a McDonald’s in Queens for the Right to Sit. And Sit. And Sit.” (New York Times • Jan 2014)
  7. [37:00] Nocturnalist archive
  8. [38:00] “Alec Baldwin: Actor, Charmer, Fish Deboner” (New York Times • Jun 2011)
  9. [44:00] “City Agencies to Investigate Nail Salons, Mayor Says” (New York Times • May 2015)
  10. [47:00] “The Economics of New York’s Low Nail-Salon Prices” (James Surowiecki • New Yorker • May 2015)
May 13, 2015

Stephen J. Dubner is the co-author, with Steven D. Levitt, of Freakonomics. Their latest book, When to Rob a Bank, came out last week.

“I’ve abandoned more books than I’ve written, which I’m happy about. I’m very pro-quitting. We get preached this idea that if you quit something, if you don’t see something through to completion then you’re a loser, you’re a failure. I just think that’s a crazy way to look at things. But it’s also easy to overlook opportunity costs. Like, what could I be doing instead?”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter, HP Matter, The Great Courses, and Aspiration.


Show Notes:

May 6, 2015

George Quraishi is the co-founder and editor of Howler.

“We raised $69,001. And that paid for the first issue. I call it subsistence magazine making, because every issue pays for the next one.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Squarespace, The Great Courses, and Aspiration for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 29, 2015

Andy Greenwald covers television for Grantland.

“People are enthusiastic about TV. People want to read about it. They want to talk about it. They want to know more. They want to extend its presence in their lives. People used to talk about the water cooler show, but the internet is that water cooler now and people want to be part of the conversation.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Two5six Festival, The Great Courses, and Aspiration for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 21, 2015

Alexis Okeowo, a foreign correspondent, has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Businessweek.

“Nigeria is a deeply sexist country. It can be difficult for people to take you seriously. But that also has its benefits, because it’s very easy to disarm your subjects. If I’m interviewing people who underestimate me, I can get them to open up because they somehow think that I’m naïve or I don’t know what I’m doing. So I don’t mind if some sexist general or banker thinks I’m this young little student who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. As long as you tell me what I want to know, it’s great.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and MarketingProfs for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 15, 2015

Rachel Syme has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Grantland, and more.

“You have this sense that you’re bonding, but at the same time you’re also going to betray them. Because if you hear this quote that they say or you see it in a mannerism, you write it in your notebook and you think ‘I got it.’”

Thanks to TinyLetter, The Great Courses, MarketingProfs, and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 8, 2015

Anna Sale is the host of Death, Sex & Money.

“It’s the result of listening, of feeling listened to, that people open up. I look like a crazy person when I do interviews, because sometimes someone will be describing something and I will close my eyes and try to picture what they’re telling me. And if I can’t picture the moment they’re describing I’ll just try to dig in a little bit more.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, The Great Courses, MarketingProfs, and WealthFront for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

April 1, 2015

Scott Anderson is a war correspondent and novelist. He’s written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Vanity Fair, and more.

“I really feel that what’s at the root of so many wars now, modern wars, unconventional wars, it really just comes down to a bunch of young guys with access to guns coming up with a pretext to rape and murder and pillage and steal from their neighbors.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, MarketingProfs, and WealthFront for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

March 25, 2015

Dayna Tortorici is the editor of n+1.

“You can’t fetishize conflict so much. Because conflict does generate a lot of good work, but it also inhibits a lot of good work. I think people do their best work when they feel good. Or at least don’t feel like shit. … So I’ve tried to create a culture of mutual encouragement. Especially when you’re not paying anybody, that’s all you can really offer.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Wealthfront for sponsoring this week’s show.


Show Notes:

March 18, 2015

Adam Platt is the restaurant critic for New York.

“My job was described to me recently as ‘the last great job of the 20th century.’ I think there might be something to that.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Lynda, Casper, and Wealthfront for sponsoring this week’s show. 


Show Notes:

March 10, 2015

Erik Larson is the author of several books, including The Devil in the White City. His latest is Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania.

“I realized then and there, that afternoon, the thing that was going to make this interesting was the juxtaposition of light and dark, good and evil. This monument of civic good will versus this monument to the dark side of human nature. … But that was really hard to pull off. And, frankly, on the eve of publication I was pretty sure my career was over.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Wealthfront, and Love and Other Ways of Dying, the new collection from Michael Paterniti, for sponsoring this week’s episode. 


Show Notes:

March 4, 2015

Josh Dean has written for GQ, Fast Company, New York, and more. His latest piece, “The Life and Times of the Stopwatch Gang,” was just published by The Atavist.

“I sort of reject the whole idea of something being beneath me. There are obviously some stories I wouldn’t do or that I have no interest in, but this job is fun and should be fun. And I wouldn’t turn something down that seems like a fun thing for me to do just because maybe the story is not something that 10,000 people are going to tweet about. I don’t give a shit.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Squarespace, Lynda and HP Matter for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

February 25, 2015

Mac McClelland has written for Mother Jones, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone and others. Her book Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story came out this week.

“I would just suddenly start sobbing, which is not something I usually do. I felt like I needed to be drunk all the time, which is also not something I usually do. I was having nightmares and I was having flashbacks. I was terrified and confused and disoriented all the time. I was a completely different person, unrecognizable even to myself.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Alarm Grid for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

February 19, 2015

Rukmini Callimachi covers ISIS for The New York Times. Part 1 of this episode is available here.

“Ever since I started in journalism, I feel like I’m perpetually winded. Like I’m just running as hard as I can to stay ahead of this train that’s crashing. The caboose is falling off the back and I’m trying to run faster than the train to get to this very limited pool of amazing jobs. Once I got overseas I would say a prayer every night for the amazing life I was finally able to lead.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

February 18, 2015

Rukmini Callimachi covers ISIS for The New York Times.

“Nine out of 10 Americans said they were aware of James Foley’s execution. That’s a huge win for ISIS. That’s what they want. I think they’ve realized that journalists are the crème de la crème as far as targets. And that’s a really scary thing for our profession.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

February 11, 2015

Jack Shafer covers the media for Politico.

“This is a true story, not a ‘Brian Williams story’: my first report card said ‘Jack is a very good student, but he has a tendency to start fights on the playground and bring them back into the classroom.’ That’s been my career style — start a fight and bring it back to the classroom.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:


Show Notes:

February 4, 2015

Molly Crabapple is an artist and writer. She is a columnist for VICE and her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review and Vanity Fair.

“As long as the marginalized communities I’m writing about don’t think I’m full of shit, that’s success to me.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Squarespace and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

January 28, 2015

Taffy Brodesser-Akner is a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine and GQ.

“My writing career was something that was always about to happen, just as soon as the baby falls asleep, just as soon as I finish watching this five-hour bout of As the World Turns, just as soon as… What do you do when you realize that you have not been doing the thing you were going to do? You’re in your 30s. You get to work.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

January 21, 2015

Anand Gopal has written for The Wall Street Journal, Harper’s and Foreign Policy. He’s the author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes.

“When I got to the Taliban, I got out my notebook and tried to ask the hard-hitting questions. ‘What are you fighting for? Why are you doing this? What’s happening with the civilians you’re killing?’ And of course you do that and you get boilerplate answers and icy stares. So I just started asking them questions about their childhood. … People love to talk about themselves and he began to open up and very subtly something shifted and it no longer became about the war and America versus the Taliban, it became about him being an Afghan and his experience.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Lynda for sponsoring this week’s episode. If you would like to support the show, please leave a review on iTunes.


Show Notes:

January 14, 2015

Alex Blumberg is a former producer for This American Life and Planet Money. Last year he founded Gimlet Media, a podcast network, and hosts its first show, StartUp.

“When someone starts talking about something difficult, when they get unexpectedly emotional, your normal human reaction is to sort of comfort and steer away. To say, ‘Oh I’m sorry, let’s move on.’ What you need to do, if you want good tape, is to say, ‘Talk more about how you’re feeling right now.’ It feels like a horrible question to ask. It feels like you’re going against your every instinct as a decent human being to go toward the pain that this person is experiencing.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Lynda and Alarm Grid for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

January 7, 2015

Nicholas Carlson writes for Business Insider. His book Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! came out this week.

“To me people are what’s really interesting. Marissa Mayer is a once in a lifetime subject. She’s full of contradictions. … There are a million business stories, but if you don’t have that character at the center then you’re lost.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Lynda and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

December 31, 2014

Dan P. Lee is a contributing writer at New York.

“I don’t believe in answers. That’s what compels me to write all of these stories. None of them ends nicely, none of them ends neatly.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

December 24, 2014

Evan Wright, a two-time National Magazine Award winner, is the author of Generation Kill.

“When people were killed, civilians especially, I realized I was the only person there who would write it down. I was frantic about getting names, and in the book there are a few Arabic names, some of the victims. Not that anyone cares. But I thought, ‘At least somewhere there’s a record of this.'”

Thanks to our sponsor, TinyLetter.


Show notes:

December 17, 2014

Hanna Rosin is a senior editor at The Atlantic and a founder and editor at DoubleX.

“I often think of reporting as dating, or even speed dating. You’re looking for someone where there’s a spark there between you and them. Sometimes that happens right away and sometimes it takes forever. … You have to determine if they’re reflective, friendly, open. It could be love at first sight and they’re still all wrong, which is really heartbreaking.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Bonobos and The Los Angeles Times’ Bookshelf Newsletter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

December 10, 2014

Meghan Daum’s latest book of essays is The Unspeakable.

“As writers we think, well there has to be closure, there has to be a beginning middle end, the character has to go through a change. And then in life we’re supposed to have some sort of arc or aha moment, as if the experience isn’t legitimate unless we get something out of it. That’s so culturally constructed, as they say. It’s so artificial.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Scribd, and Oscar for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

December 3, 2014

Katie J.M. Baker is a reporter for BuzzFeed.

“I went to Steubenville a year after the sexual assault to cover their first big football game of the season and I was face-to-face with these people who I had been writing about without knowing much about them. From far away it seems like, do these details matter? Do we care if these people’s lives get messed up when the narrative is so strong, when Steubenville now stands for more awareness around rape culture? But when you’re there, of course it matters. After that piece I realized I didn’t want to blog anymore and I wanted to just focus on reporting.”

Thanks to Casper, Scribd, and TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

November 26, 2014

Alec Wilkinson is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“My hero was Joseph Mitchell, that was how you did reporting. There was nothing conniving about it or cunning — you just simply kept returning and kept returning.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

November 19, 2014

Emma Carmichael, a former editor at Deadspin and The Hairpin, is the editor in chief of Jezebel.

“Online feminism has more and more rules lately. There are only so many things you can say. And while our opinions are getting more constrained online, personal feminism and face-to-face conversations are looser and more complicated and don’t go by any rules. … The ideal with Jezebel is getting to a point where you can say, ‘This is what I think, so who gives a fuck.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

November 12, 2014

Reihan Salam is the executive editor of National Review.

“I’m incredibly curious about other people. I’m curious about what they think of as the constraints operating on their lives. Why do they think what they think? If I weren’t doing this job, I’d want to be a high school guidance counselor.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Bonobos, and Cards Against Humanity’s Ten Days or Whatever of Kwanzaa for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

November 5, 2014

Jake Halpern, a contributor to This American Life, has written for The New Yorker and The New York Times Magazine. His latest book is Bad Paper: Chasing Debt from Wall Street to the Underworld.

“I test out my stories on my kids. You should be able to tell any story, now matter how complicated, to a seven-year-old in a way that they understand. If you can’t, that probably means that either a) you’re telling the story wrong or b) it’s not really a story.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Bonobos for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

October 29, 2014

Jen Percy is the author of Demon Camp: A Soldier’s Exorcism.

“As is the nature of obsession, you just start gathering materials, hoarding documents and taking notes in a way that’s totally chaotic and overwhelming. You don’t even care yet because you’re so excited by what you’re gathering. If you start trying to make a narrative out of it too soon it will be false or it will fall apart.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Dear Thief, the new novel by Samantha Harvey, for sponsoring this week’s episode.

Show Notes:

October 22, 2014

Jessica Pressler writes for New York, Elle and GQ.

“I really like hustlers, stories about someone who comes out of nowhere and tries to do it for themselves. Those people are just easy to like. Even when they’re sort of terrible, they’re easy to like.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Warby Parker for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

October 15, 2014

Wendy MacNaughton is a graphic journalist and the co-author of Pen & Ink: Tattoos and the Stories Behind Them.

“We mostly hear stories from big personalities who already have a spotlight on them. I think that everybody carries stories that are just as profound as the ones we hear from celebrities or whoever. I’m interested in the stories of people who don’t usually get to tell them. I think those are sometimes the most interesting.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

October 8, 2014

Don Van Natta Jr., a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, writes for ESPN and is the author of several books, including Wonder Girl.

“The nature of the kind of work I do as an investigative reporter, every story you do is going to get attacked and the tires are going to get kicked. It’s going to get scrutinized down to every phrase and down to every letter. You have to have multiple sources for key facts on this type of story. We set out to get that and we got it.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Bonobos for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

October 8, 2014

Today we are re-airing our February 2013 interivew with our friend Matt Power, who died earlier this year while on assignment in Uganda, to help raise money for Matthew Power Literary Reporting Award.

We have also reprinted Matt’s classic 2005 article, “The Lost Buddhas of Bamiyan,” which is available online for the first time.

Founded by Matt’s friends and family, the annual award will support promising writers early in their careers with a stipend of $12,500 to bring forward an unreported story of importance in some overlooked corner of the world.

Please donate today.

October 1, 2014

Anne Helen Petersen writes for BuzzFeed. Her book Scandals of Classic Hollywood is out this week.

“I was obsessed with Entertainment Weekly from the very first issue and I obsessively catalogued it. I made a database on my Apple IIe where I put in the title of the magazine and the number and whether it was a little ‘e’ or a big ‘E’ on the cover and the different topics and then I gave it a grade. You know how in Entertainment Weekly they give everything a grade, so I’d be like ‘Oscar’s Issue: A minus.’ But I learned how to obsessively track Hollywood industry even though I grew up in a very small town in northern Idaho.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, Bonobos, and EA SPORTS FIFA 15 for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

September 24, 2014

Chris Hayes hosts All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC and is an editor-at-large for The Nation.

“The instability was so intense and the anguish and frustration were so intense that there wasn’t a ton of time to think through, ‘Well, what is my role in this?’ Mostly it was: wake up in the morning after two or three hours of sleep and start going to stuff, talking to people, and keep doing that until the show happens.”

Thanks to GoDaddy for sponsoring this week’s episode. Apply for the TinyLetter Writers Residency by September 26. And nominate your favorite soccer article for a chance to win a free Xbox One and EA SPORTS FIFA 15.


Show Notes:

September 16, 2014

Buzz Bissinger, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has written for Vanity Fair, The New York Times Magazine, GQ and more. He is the author of several books, including Friday Night Lights.

“It’s quiet. And I really felt I needed that quiet. People say, ‘Well anger was your edge, and agitation was your edge, and that’s going to hurt your writing.’ I don’t know, maybe. It may be that in order to live a happier life you become a shittier writer. I don’t know. But I just couldn’t live in that fashion anymore, I just couldn’t. It would’ve destroyed my marriage. It was destroying me.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors. The Longform App is now available. Apply for the TinyLetter Writers Residency by September 26. And nominate your favorite soccer article for a chance to win a free Xbox One and EA SPORTS FIFA 15.


Show Notes:

September 10, 2014

Sean Wilsey has written for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The New York Times, and McSweeney’s Quarterly, where he is an editor-at-large. His latest book is More Curious.

“I’m actually apparently a fairly competent person at getting things done, making deadlines and all these things. But the Wilsey you might get in the piece about NASA is the guy who eats a ton of oysters and drinks a lot of beer before getting on the vomit comet.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and GoDaddy for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

September 3, 2014

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones.

“There’s nothing purely, or maybe even at all, altruistic about this exchange. It’s transactional in the Janet Malcolm classical sense, but also in the emotional sense. There is a way in which I’m super open. I take in these experiences. They keep me up at night. They really get inside me. But then, I’m also using them to craft whatever I’m working on.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 27, 2014

Zach Baron is a staff writer for GQ.

“People love to put celebrity stuff or culture stuff lower on the hierarchy than, say, a serial killer story. I think they’re all the same story. If you crack the human, you crack the human.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

 

 

August 20, 2014

Ben Anderson is a war journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest book, The Interpreters, is available free from Vice.

“You’re surrounded by people who are so poor. Maybe their family members have already been killed. And they still can’t leave. So compared to that, I can’t really take the idea that I’ve suffered and that I need stop and go to a spa for a few days. I can’t take that idea that seriously. Compared to them, it feels like I am leading an almost privileged existence.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and GoDaddy for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 13, 2014

Lewis Lapham, formerly the editor of Harper’s, is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly.

“The best part of my job was to come across a manuscript. You never knew what would show up. … I always had the sense of opening a present, hoping to be both delighted and surprised. Often I was disappointed. But when I wasn’t, it was a lot of fun. And word got around that I was that kind of an editor, that I was willing to try anything if you could make it interesting.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and GoDaddy for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

August 6, 2014

Adam Higginbotham has written for Businessweek, Wired and The New Yorker. His latest story is A Thousand Pounds of Dynamite, for The Atavist.

“There’s always a narrative in a crime story. Something has always gone wrong. These guys are always in prison, because they all fucked something up or trusted the wrong person. They always get caught in the end. Because if they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading about it.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 30, 2014

Brin-Jonathan Butler has written for SB Nation, ESPN, and The New York Times. His new book is A Cuban Boxer’s Journey.

“He smiled at me and just to make small talk, I said, ‘You know, you’ve got this gold grill on your teeth. Where did you get that from?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I just melted my gold medals into my mouth.’ And I thought, ‘I think I’ve got a story here.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter, WW Norton & Company and Open Road Integrated Media for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 23, 2014

Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah has written for The Believer, The LA Review of Books, Transition and The Paris Review. “If He Hollers Let Him Go,” her essay on Dave Chappelle, was a 2014 National Magazine Award finalist.

“So the stakes are high. I’m not just writing this to write. I’m writing because I think there’s something I need to say. And there’s something that needs to be said. … What I hope is that a young kid or an older person will see that you have choices, that you don’t have to accept what people hand to you. That you have control.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 16, 2014

A look back at some of our favorite moments from the first 99.

Thanks to our sponsors, TinyLetter and Squarespace.


Show Notes:

July 9, 2014

John Heilemann is the managing editor of Bloomberg Politics and the co-author of Game Change and Double Down.

“If you’re a writer, and you’re not an asshole, you want the maximum number of people to read your stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no great glory in cultivating some niche audience. I do this work because I believe in what I’m doing. I’m not trying to compromise my principles or my standards to get a larger audience. But once I’ve written the thing of which I feel confident and proud, which I feel is ethically and journalistically sound, I then want the maximum number of people to read it.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

July 2, 2014

George Saunders has written for The New Yorker and GQ. His latest collection of short stories is Tenth of December.

“Maybe you would understand your artistry to be: put me anywhere. I’ll find human beings, I’ll find human interest, I’ll find literature. And I guess you could argue the weirder, or maybe the less explored the place, the better.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Audible for sponsoring this episode. 


Show notes:

June 25, 2014

Sarah Nicole Prickett is the founding editor of Adult.

“I’ll admit to being resistant to the ‘by women for women’ label that Adult had before because I saw it as being just ‘by women,’ period. That’s way more feminist than making something for women, which is very prescriptive and often comes in various shades of pink.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

June 18, 2014

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor at The Atlantic. His latest cover story is “The Case for Reparations.”

“The writer hopes for change, but writers can’t assume that their work is going to cause change.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and I Am Zlatan, the international bestseller published by Random House, for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show Notes:

June 11, 2014

Nathaniel Rich writes for Rolling Stone, Harper’s and the New York Times Magazine. His latest novel is Odds Against Tomorrow.

“I’m drawn to obsession. I think I’m an obsessive in a way, probably most writers are. It’s an obsessive act to sit at a desk by yourself.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA WORLD CUP for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

June 4, 2014

Wesley Morris, a Pulitzer Prize winner, covers film at Grantland.

“That’s what writing about race and popular culture is for me: it’s crime reporting. It’s not me looking for an agenda when I go to the movies … but I feel a moral responsibility to report a crime being committed. That’s what I’m forced to do over and over again.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors, Warby Parker and TinyLetter.


Show notes:

May 28, 2014

Gary Smith retired last month after more than 30 years of writing for Sports Illustrated.

“We were on the Santa Monica Freeway, Ali’s driving 70 miles an hour and his eyes are drifting asleep—the medication for Parkinson’s would do that to him. I’m thinking, ‘Oh, crap.’ We’re weaving between lanes, cars are honking, and I’m wondering in the passenger seat, ‘Should I grab the wheel from the greatest champ of all-time?’ The writer in me wants to let it go, let the crash happen just so I get a scene for the story. But the human in me was just getting scared as hell.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA WORLD CUP for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

May 21, 2014

Michael Paterniti, a correspondent for GQ, has also written for Esquire, Rolling Stone and Outside. His latest book is The Telling Room.

“I want to see it, whatever it is. If it’s war, if it’s suffering, if it’s complete, unbridled elation, I just want to see what that looks like—I want to smell it, I want to taste it, I want to think about it, I want to be caught up in it.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter and Hari Kunzru’s Twice Upon a Time, the new title from and Atavist Books.


Show notes:

May 14, 2014

Leslie Jamison has written for The Believer, Harper’s and The New York Times. Her latest book is The Empathy Exams.

“I sort of love imagining a small army of 22-year-old men who are just like, ‘Fuck that book, I wish it was never published.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Harry’s for sponsoring this week’s episode.

Show notes:

May 7, 2014

Michael Lewis has written for The New Republic, Vanity Fair and The New York Times Magazine. His latest book is Flash Boys.

“When you’re telling a story, you’re essentially playing the cards you’re dealt. … Sometimes the hand is very easy to play. Sometimes the hand is difficult to play. At the end, I just try to think, ‘Is there anything I would have done differently?’ ‘Is there any trick I missed?’ If I don’t have the feeling that I missed something big, I feel happy about the book.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode.

Show notes:

April 30, 2014

Susan Dominus is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine.

“A lot of reporting is really just hanging around and not going home until something interesting happens.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

April 23, 2014

Alice Gregory has written for n+1, GQ, The New York Times and Harper’s.

“If you don’t have a real story with a beginning, middle and an end, you owe it to the reader to kind of serve as their chaperone.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA WORLD CUP for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

April 16, 2014

Sam Biddle writes for Valleywag.

“It’s a lot of overgrown, entitled manchildren pulling price tags out of the ether and passing them around. Considering Silicon Valley worthy of contempt is the first premise that we work from.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

April 9, 2014

Amanda Hess, a staff writer at Slate, has also written for Pacific Standard, GOOD, and ESPN the Magazine.

“I ended up not loving the fact that I was getting a bunch of calls from MSNBC and CNN, who mostly wanted to talk about people threatening to rape and kill me and only a tiny bit about the story I’d written. … It was tiring, and it seemed dismissive of me as a person. It’s a strange thing to become somebody else’s story, especially when the story is: You’re a victim of an insane online harasser. That’s who you are.

Thanks to this week’s sponsors, TinyLetter and Oyster Books.


Show notes:

April 2, 2014

Mattathias Schwartz has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine and Harper’s.

“I figure it’s like digging through a wall with a spoon: if you spend enough time at it eventually you get to the other side.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

March 26, 2014

Tavi Gevinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie.

“I just want our readers to know that they are already smart enough and cool enough.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors, TinyLetter and Atavist Books.


Show notes:

March 19, 2014

Sabrina Rubin Erdely, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, has also written for GQ, Philadelphia and SELF

“I think that people are, by their nature, good and want to act rightly. So I’m very interested in why people do these things that result in really bad actions. My lack of outrage actually is one of the things that probably helps me in my reporting because I really am propelled by this pure curiosity. … I just want to know, ‘Where did that come from?'”

Thanks to TinyLetter and PillPack for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

March 12, 2014

“The kind of stories I’ve gotten to do have involved fulfilling my childhood fantasies of having an adventurous life. Even though I don’t make a ton of money doing it, I’ve never felt like I was missing out on something.”

Our friend Matt Power, a freelance journalist, died this week while on assignment in Uganda. Matt recorded this episode of the Longform Podcast with Evan Ratliff in February 2013.

March 12, 2014

Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower and Going Clear, is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“If I had the chance to interview Osama Bin Laden, should I kill him? It’s a fair question. Suppose we’re having dinner — should I stab him with the bread knife? Do I have a moral obligation to kill him? Or do I have a moral obligation as a reporter to simply hear him? … It’s sometimes difficult to take away the judgements that you naturally have. But when you do that, when you strip yourself and you’re morally naked, it’s sometimes surprising how infectious the relationship can become.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Pillpack.com for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

March 12, 2014

Pamela Colloff and Mimi Swartz are executive editors of Texas Monthly.

Colloff: “That sense of loss, that sense of normal life turning on a dime is something that, in a very different way, I’ve experienced. And I carry that with me into some of the more difficult stories.”

Swartz: “Here’s this great [public interest] story that nobody’s ever told. Now how can I write it so the maximum number of people want to read it? I try to make the homework part as interesting and compelling as possible.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and PillPack for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

  1. @pamelacolloff
  2. Colloff on Longform
  3. [2:15] Longform Podcast #16: Pamela Colloff
  4. [10:00] “A Bend in the River” (Texas Monthly • Jul 2002)
  5. [10:00] “A Question of Mercy” (Texas Monthly • Mar 2014)
  6. [10:30] “The Innocent Man, Part One” (Texas Monthly • Nov 2012)
  7. [10:30] “The Innocent Man, Part Two” (Texas Monthly • Dec 2012)
  8. [14:45] “Innocence Found” (Texas Monthly • Jan 2011)

Show notes:

March 5, 2014

Jennifer Senior is a contributing editor at New York and the author of All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.

“I’ve had moments in motherhood that have been close to something like religious. But I don’t think social scientists say things like, “How many numinous moments have you had?” They don’t do that, so you have to figure out what to do. I was suddenly turning to other texts to try and explain all of this.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

February 26, 2014

Kevin Roose, a writer at New York, has contributed to The New York Times, GQ and Esquire. His latest book is Young Money: Inside the Hidden World of Wall Street’s Post-Crash Recruits.

“Google will give you away. I feel like one undercover book is all you get these days before the jig is up. … Unless, like Barbara Ehrenreich, you legally change your name. I was not quite prepared to go that far.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

February 18, 2014

Wil S. Hylton, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Vanished.

“I despise the fucking nut graf. I think it’s a joke, a cop out. The story probably should be about something larger than itself but if you have to tell people what that is, you’ve failed form the beginning. If they can’t find it, you didn’t put it there and you shouldn’t be beating them over the head with it.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and The Fog Horn for sponsoring this week’s episode, and to the Writing Department at the University of Pittsburgh for hosting.


Show notes:

February 12, 2014

David Kushner, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, has written for The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired and The Atavist.

“The minute you see an incredible character, you know. The only thing I can compare it to is bowling, not that I’m much of a bowler. On the few times I’ve thrown a strike, you know it before it hits the pins.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and ProFlowers for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

February 5, 2014

Ariel Levy is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

“I like an older awesome lady, I don’t think enough is written about older awesome ladies and I don’t think there are enough role models for younger awesome ladies. It’s great fun hanging out with an older awesome lady. It’s inspiring. And it makes you think ‘Jesus, I might be rocking it when I’m 80!'”

Thanks to ProFlowers and TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

January 29, 2014

Dan P. Lee is a contributing writer at New York.

“I don’t believe in answers. That’s what compels me to write all of these stories. None of them ends nicely, none of them ends neatly.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

January 22, 2014

Roger D. Hodge is the editor of Oxford American.

“My career isn’t all that interesting insofar as I’ve been an editor. I’m much more interested in talking about writers and stories. That’s the main thing: telling these stories, creating this platform, this context for the best possible storytelling.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Random House for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

January 15, 2014

George Saunders has written for The New Yorker and GQ. His latest collection of short stories is Tenth of December.

“Maybe you would understand your artistry to be: put me anywhere. I’ll find human beings, I’ll find human interest, I’ll find literature. And I guess you could argue the weirder, or maybe the less explored the place, the better.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Audible for sponsoring this week’s episode. 


Show notes:

January 8, 2014

Jon Mooallem, a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine, is the author of Wild Ones and American Hippopotamus, the latest story from The Atavist.

“I’m terrible at writing nut graphs. I never know why people should keep reading. That’s the menace of my professional existence, trying to figure that out. Because often you have to explain that to an editor before you even start, and I may not even know while I’m writing what the bigger point is.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

December 19, 2013

Joe Sexton is a senior editor at ProPublica and a former reporter and editor at the New York Times, where he led the team that produced “Snow Fall.”

“My experience in a newspaper newsroom over the years has been: The word you hear least often, the word that’s hardest for people to say in that environment, is the word yes. It’s safer to say no. You get second-guessed less often if you say no. Your job’s not on the line if you say no. But if you’re willing to say yes and you’re willing to face the consequences of having said yes, then quite amazing things can happen.”

Thanks to Random House and TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

December 11, 2013

Andrew Leland is an editor at The Believer and hosts The Organist.

“I think a good editor has a strong stomach for crazy assholes. Because often crazy assholes are really brilliant great writers.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

December 4, 2013

Jason Fagone, a contributing editor at Wired and a writer-at-large for Philadelphia, is the author of Ingenious.

“It seemed like all the big guys in American society had let us down, all the elites. And here was a contest that was explicitly looking to the little guy and saying, ‘We don’t care what you’ve done before or how much money you have in your pocket. If you solve this problem, you win the money.’ There was something so optimistic and hopeful and cool about that to me.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

November 27, 2013

Amy Wallace is an editor-at-large for Los Angeles and a correspondent for GQ .

“I’ve written about the anti-vaccine movement. I love true crime. I’ve written a lot of murder stories. The thing that unites all of them—whether it’s a celebrity profile or a biologist who murdered a bunch of people or Justin Timberlake—it’s almost trite to say, but there’s a humanity to each of these people. And figuring out what’s making them tick in the moment, or in general, is interesting to me. In a way, that’s my sweet spot.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Warby Parker for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

November 20, 2013

Rachel Aviv is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

“If I’m writing about the criminal justice system, I wish I were a lawyer. If I’m writing about psychiatry, I wish I were a psychiatrist. I have often filled out half my application to get a Ph.D in clinical psychology. That is one area where I am constantly on the verge of jumping the fence. But even when I wrote about religion, I thought I wanted to be a priest.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and HostGator for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

November 13, 2013

Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the co-editors of Mother Jones.

“We probably pay more attention to our fact-checking and our research than almost everybody in our industry. By the time we publish stuff, we make sure it’s unimpeachable because people would like to impeach it.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and HostGator for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

November 6, 2013

Evan Wright, a two-time National Magazine Award winner, is the author of Generation Kill.

“When people were killed, civilians especially, I realized I was the only person there who would write it down. I was frantic about getting names, and in the book there are a few Arabic names, some of the victims. Not that anyone cares. But I thought, ‘At least somewhere there’s a record of this.'”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter and HostGator.


Show notes:

October 30, 2013

Andy Ward, a former editor at Esquire and GQ, is the editorial director of nonfiction at Random House.

“How you gain that trust is a hard thing to quantify. The way I try do it is by caring. If you don’t care about every word and every sentence in the piece, writers pick up on that. … Ultimately, it’s their book or their magazine article. Their name is on it, not mine. I always try to keep that in mind.”

Thanks to this week’s sponsors: TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA 14.


Show notes:

October 23, 2013

Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of four books, including Prozac Nation.

“It’s not that hard to be a lawyer. Any fool can be a lawyer. It’s really hard to be a writer. You have to be born with incredible amounts of talent. Then you have to work hard. Then you have to be able to handle tons of rejection and not mind it and just keep pushing away at it. You have to show up at people’s doors. You can’t just e-mail and text message people. You have to bang their doors down. You have to be interesting. You have to be fucking phenomenal to get a book published and then sell the book. When people think their writing career is not working out, it’s not working out because it’s so damn hard. It’s not harder now than it was 20 years ago. It’s just as hard. It was always hard.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA 14 for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

October 17, 2013

Gay Talese, who wrote for Esquire in the 1960s and currently contributes to The New Yorker, is the author of several books. His latest is A Writer’s Life.

“I want to know how people did what they did. And I want to know how that compares with how I did what I did. That’s my whole life. It’s not really a life. It’s a life of inquiry. It’s a life of getting off your ass, knocking on a door, walking a few steps or a great distance to pursue a story. That’s all it is: a life of boundless curiosity in which you indulge yourself and never miss an opportunity to talk to someone at length.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Warby Parker for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

October 9, 2013

Jon Ronson, a contributor to This American Life, The Guardian and GQ, is the author of six books, including The Men Who Stare at Goats. His latest is Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries.

“The older you get, you realize that no uncomfortable fact makes your story worse. Contradictions are great. What’s bad, what to me is the worst journalistic sin, is ridiculous polemicism. … To me, the contradictions, the story not turning out the way you want—you have to be a twig in the tidal wave of the story.”

Thanks to TinyLetter, EA SPORTS FIFA 14 and Learnvest for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

October 1, 2013

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His latest book is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

“The categories are in motion. You turn into a Goliath, then you topple because of your bigness. You fall to the bottom again. And Davids, after a while, are no longer Davids. Facebook is no longer an underdog—it’s now everything it once despised. I’m everything I once despised. When I was 25, I used to write these incredibly snotty, hostile articles attacking big-name, nonfiction journalists. Now I read them and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, they’re doing a me on me!'”

Thanks to TinyLetter and EA SPORTS FIFA 14 for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

September 25, 2013

Cord Jefferson is the West Coast Editor at Gawker.

“I consider myself to be a sincere human being. And I think that the way the internet carries itself, the way the internet has dialogues, is often insincere. That concerns me. I don’t ever want to lose my sincerity. I don’t ever want to lose my ability to feel emotional about things that I write about. I don’t ever want to have a distance from everything that I write. I think that can be a danger of writing too much for the internet, that you develop this elitist distance from everything. That nothing really matters, you know?”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Hulu Plus for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

September 18, 2013

Hamilton Morris is the science editor for Vice and a contributor to Harper’s.

“It’s a shame that there isn’t more of an interdisciplinary approach to a lot of scientific investigations, because often the result is that misinformation is produced. Again, there’s misinformation in journalism and there’s misinformation in science. And if you combine the best elements of both of those disciplines you can come a little bit closer to the truth. If you want to understand a drug phenomenon, you’re going to need to look at it medically, chemically, anthropologically, you need to talk to people, you need to interview people, you need to look at the drug policy, the chemistry, the history—there’s a lot of different factors that need to be examined in order to understand even the most simple, minute drug phenomenon. And if you’re approaching something purely as a scientist, as an academic, there are huge limitations as to what you can do.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Hulu Plus for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

September 11, 2013

Nancy Jo Sales writes for Vanity Fair and is the author of The Bling Ring.

“I’m a mom now, so my life’s a little different. I can’t do certain things that I used to do, and I won’t, because they’re dangerous or ridiculous or keep me out till five in the morning or whatever. But back in those days, I didn’t even really have—I didn’t even have a pet! This was everything I did. This was my whole life, this passion to find out these things, and do these things, and see these things, and have these adventures and be able to report about this street life that rarely gets talked about. I just didn’t really have a lot of boundaries in those days. I don’t think I had any, really. And if you really throw yourself into something, you can get a great story. You can also not have a life of your own.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

September 4, 2013

Sarah Stillman is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“People don’t really care about issues so much as they care about the stories and the characters that bring those issues to life. … A story needs an engine or something to propel you forward and it can’t just be a collection of like, ‘Oh, hmm, this was interesting over here and this was interesting over there.’ Realizing that helped me sit down with all my stuff on trafficking and labor abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan and say ‘What are the five craziest things that I found here and how could I weave them together in a way that would actually have some forward motion?'”

Thanks to TinyLetter and HuluPlus for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

August 28, 2013

Eli Saslow is a staff writer at the Washington Post and a contributor at ESPN the Magazine.

It’s not really my place to complain about it being hard for me to write. I wrote the story (“After Newtown Shooting, Mourning Parents Enter Into the Lonely Quiet”) and I got to leave it. And even when I was writing the story, I was only experiencing what they were experiencing in a super fractional way. The hard part is that it was a story where there are no breaks, there’s no—it is this relentless, sort of bottomless pain and I struggled with that. … A story can only have so many crushing moments, otherwise they just all wash out. But the other truth is: it is what it is. It’s an impossibly heartbreaking situation. And making the story anything other than relentlessly heartbreaking would’ve been doing an injustice to what they’re dealing with.

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

August 21, 2013

Joshuah Bearman is the co-founder of Epic Magazine and a freelance writer. His latest story is “Coronado High.”

“People who know me well will realize that parts of this story are actually about me. … It’s about loss of innocence and getting to a certain point in your life where you realize the excitement of youth is over. Life at a certain point gets complicated and there are consequences and things get hard. These are people who dealt with those consequences in a way that I never did — they had to go to prison or destroy their friends lives — but that’s what I liked about this story. It’s a true crime story, but it became universal when I realized that there is this emotional experience that these characters go through that anybody can relate to.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Igloo Software for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

August 14, 2013

Amy Harmon, a Pulitzer Prize winner, covers science and society for the New York Times.

“I’m not looking to expose science as problematic and I’m not looking to celebrate it. But it can be double edged. Genetic knowledge can certainly be double edged. Often the science outpaces where our culture is in terms of grappling with it, with the implications of it. Part of the reason for this widespread fear about GMOs is people don’t understand what it is. I’m looking for an emotional way or a vehicle through which to get people to read about it. It’s an excuse to talk about the science, not just explain it. … My contribution, what I can do, is try to tell a story that will engage people in the story and then they’ll realize at the end that they learned a little bit about the science.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

August 7, 2013

Sean Flynn is a GQ correspondent and National Magazine Award winner.

“I find it satisfying to be able to give a voice to people that sort of get lost…You know, when these big horrible things happen, and the spotlight is very briefly on them, and then it moves away, and it’s not that I’m dragging them out and forcing them to ‘Relive your horrible moments!’ It’s more a thing of, ‘If you’d like to relive your horrible moment, if you want people to know what actually happened, talk to me. I will tell your story.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter and the The Literary Reportage concentration at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

August 2, 2013

For the first time, Janet Reitman discusses her Rolling Stone cover story on accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“My editors, myself, a lot of people who work for the magazine — we lived through an act of terrorism. We know what it feels like. There have been accusations to me personally of being insensitive, and I can tell you that I’m far from insensitive, not only to the political realities of terrorism but to the personal realities of terrorism. I breathed it in, literally. … The cover is great on a certain level, because terrorism is emotional, it’s real, it affects us. It is not something that happens just overseas or just to people who are somehow “Other.” If you talk to terrorism experts around the world, what they will all say is that the vast majority of people who are involved in these violent, extremist acts are what we would consider otherwise to be very normal people. One of us. Part of our community. That’s a reality, and it’s a very emotional thing and it makes people very uncomfortable. I totally understand that. But that was the point of my story.”


Show notes:

July 31, 2013

Kelley Benham is a writer and editor at the Tampa Bay Times.

“People connect with this story in a really visceral kind of way, usually because of some experience they’ve had or someone close to them has had. I’ve had 90-year-old women crying into my phone about babies they lost 70 years ago. I’ve had people kind of sneak up to me and tell me about babies that have died that they don’t talk about, but that they carry with them all the time. I’ve had premies who are grown up—those are my favorite–you know, “I’m 20 now and I have a scar just like Juniper’s scar, and thank you for helping me understand who I am.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

July 24, 2013

Robert Kolker is the author of Lost Girls and a contributing editor at New York.

“For better or for worse, my heart’s not in the mystery. I want [the killer] to be caught—he’s obviously a predator and he’s unstable. But they all are. They’re all messed up people who victimize other people and they all look normal. The art and science of catching serial killers has become more than slightly overblown in our society. And you know, I love Silence of the Lambs … but I’m not entirely sure that our obsession with who the serial killer is and why a serial killer does it is in proportion with how interesting they end up being.”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


Show notes:

July 17, 2013

Edith Zimmerman is the founding editor of The Hairpin and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine.

“I never wrote anything myself or ran anything from other people that was needlessly negative. It wasn’t some false grin plastered all over it — we addressed dark things too, and poked fun at things. But I didn’t want there to ever be a tone of yeah, let’s really just deflate this. Because ultimately you’re just stabbing at a ghost among friends. And then at the end you’ve all just fallen on the floor and the ghost is gone. You’re not really doing anything constructive.”


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July 10, 2013

Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and the author of The Skies Belong to Us.

“It was this big review in The New York Times and I was terrified that it was going to say something awful about the book or about me as a writer. And my son said to me — he’s 5, I should say — “If it’s bad, you won’t die.” That’s a good point, you know? So I always think of that when I pick up a new review and take that risk of someone slamming something that I’ve genuinely poured my heart and soul into.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and the Literary Reportage Department at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week’s episode.


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June 28, 2013

Evan Ratliff, a co-host of the Longform Podcast, discusses “The Oilman’s Daughter,” his new story in The Atavist.

“This woman was given the opportunity to take on a new identity. And it was a mistake. She never should’ve done it. If there was a way for her to go back and say, ‘No, I don’t want to know this. I want to be who I am,’ then I think she should’ve taken that. … I’m fascinated with people who want to radically shift their identity. It almost never works out well.”


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June 26, 2013

Steve Kandell is the longfom editor at BuzzFeed.

“What would be the sort of longer, narrative nonfiction, journalistic equivalent of something that would have the same effect on you as a bunch of cat GIFs? And not because it’s cute, but it’s the kind of thing that makes you go, ‘OK, I need a lot of other people to see this.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


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June 19, 2013

Nicholas Schmidle is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

“I was in a taxi, leaving Karachi to go attend this festival, and we started getting these very disturbing phone calls from newspaper reporters that didn’t exist, all of them asking me to meet them at various places in Karachi. I had read enough about the Daniel Pearl case to know what happened in the days leading up, and this was very similar. … We kept driving towards the festival, and shortly after that, friends started calling. They were watching local television, and it was being reported that ‘Nicholas Shamble,’ editor of Smithsonian Magazine, had been kidnapped. And I was like, ‘All right, I get the hint.'”

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week’s episode.


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June 12, 2013

Chris Heath, winner of the 2013 National Magazine Award for Reporting, is a staff writer at GQ.

“I present myself as someone who is going to be rigorous and honest. And if you can engage in the way I’m asking you to engage, then I hope you will recognize yourself in a more truthful way in this story than you usually do. And maybe even, with a bit of luck, more than you ever have before. That’s what I bring. That’s my offer.”

Thanks to TinyLetter and the Literary Reportage Department at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week’s episode.


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June 5, 2013

Abrams covers the NBA for Grantland.

“Players know that with the stories I do I’m not trying to burn anybody. I’m trying to tell a story for what it’s worth and be honest to that person… That’s one of my main goals, that you know why this person is [a certain] way when they step on the court. You know why Monta Ellis is going to keep shooting the ball. You know why Zach Randolph is such a gritty player. What these guys have gone through growing up, it materializes in their game.”


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May 29, 2013

Margalit Fox is a senior obituary writer for The New York Times and the author of The Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code.

“You do get emotionally involved with people, even though as a journalist you’re not supposed to. But as a human being, how can you not? Particularly people who had difficult, tragic, poignant lives. But there are also people that you just wish you had known. And, of course, the painful irony is that you’re only getting to know them by virtue of the fact that it’s too late.”


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May 22, 2013

Mat Honan is a senior writer at Wired.

“[The tech] industry — especially as it relates to a lot the silly apps and the silly websites and the silly shit that we put up with — is ridiculous. It’s just such a hype fest, people living off of jargon and nonsense. There are entire conferences devoted to nonsense! … I like to skewer that stuff, because I don’t want to feel responsible for it. I don’t want to feel like I’m making someone go out and buy some piece of shit they don’t need.”


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May 15, 2013

Jonathan Shainin, senior editor at The Caravan.

 

“Working in an environment that’s foreign, where you have to kind of think through a lot of things from the ground up…I find it to be really stimulating to have to interrogate the assumptions that you have as an editor about what’s interesting and what’s not interesting, what’s a good story and what’s a bad story, what’s the story that’s been done a million times already. When you get out of a place that is your place, you have to kind of think through some things in a fresh way. And that can be really productive.”

 


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May 8, 2013

Vanessa Grigoriadis, contributing editor at New York and Vanity Fair.

On the art of the celebrity interview: “People are smart. Particularly these people. They’re sitting there thinking, “When is she going to drop that question?” They know what you’re doing. So the way I think about it is: let’s have an actual, genuine, human, interesting conversation. … [Journalists] have all sorts of schemes of what they think works for them. My scheme is no scheme.”


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May 1, 2013

Natasha Vargas-Cooper, writer.


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April 24, 2013

Ted Conover, author of five books and the recent Harper’s article “The Way of All Flesh.”


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April 16, 2013

Ann Friedman, writer, editor and co-founder of Tomorrow.


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April 10, 2013

Patrick Symmes, foreign correspondent and contributor to Outside and Harper’s


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April 3, 2013

Jay Caspian Kang, writer and editor at Grantland.


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March 27, 2013

Molly Young, freelance writer for GQ and New York.


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March 13, 2013

Jake Silverstein, editor-in-chief of Texas Monthly.


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March 6, 2013

Emily Nussbaum, television critic at The New Yorker.


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February 27, 2013

Keith Gessen, founding editor of n+1 and contributor to The New Yorker.


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February 20, 2013

Matthew Power, freelance writer and contributing editor at Harper’s.


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February 13, 2013

Joel Lovell, deputy editor of The New York Times Magazine.


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February 6, 2013

Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief of The Verge.


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January 30, 2013

Jennifer Gonnerman, contributing editor at New York and contributing writer for Mother Jones.


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January 23, 2013

Susan Orlean, staff writer at The New Yorker.


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January 16, 2013

Starlee Kine, contributor to This American Life and the New York Times Magazine.


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January 9, 2013

Charles Duhigg, New York Times reporter and author of The Power of Habit.


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November 28, 2012

Mike Sager, writer-at-large for Esquire and founder of The Sager Group, interviewed by Max Linsky. 


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November 20, 2012

Joshua Davis, contributing editor at Wired and author of the new ebook John McAfee’s Last Stand, interviewed by Aaron Lammer.


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November 7, 2012

Jonah Weiner, contributing editor at Rolling Stone, pop critic at Slate, and contributor to The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker, interviewed by Aaron Lammer.


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October 31, 2012

David Samuels, contributing editor at Harper’s and frequent contributor to The New Yorker and The Atlantic, interviewed by Evan Ratliff.


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October 24, 2012
October 12, 2012

Joshuah Bearman discusses “The Great Escape,” his article about a CIA operation in Iran that became the basis for the new film Argo.


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October 10, 2012

Before a live audience in Bucharest hosted by the Romanian magazine Decât o Revistă, Evan Ratliff interviews Chris Jones.


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August 28, 2012

Evan Ratliff talks with Jon Mooallem, contributor at the New York Times Magazine and author of an upcoming book about people and wild animals.


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August 15, 2012

A contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of Inside Scientology, Reitman talks to Aaron Lammer about her career and offers advice to young writers.


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