Emily Oster is an economist, professor, and author. Her new book is The Family Firm.

”[COVID] has been 18 months of being a person who is slightly more public, who is saying things that are somewhat more controversial, where people yell at me a lot. ... I do much less reading of the comments than I did early on because I found that eventually I just got mad and that's not a productive way to interact. And it affects how I think about what I write, and I would like what I write to be the things that I think are true, not the things I think will avoid people being angry.”

Kelefa Sanneh is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His book is Major Labels: A History of Popular Music in Seven Genres.

“I’m always thinking about how to not be that person at a party who corners you and tells you about their favorite thing and you’re trying to get away. It’s got to feel light and fun. And what that means in practice is writing about music for readers who don’t care about music, while at the same time writing something that the connoisseurs don’t roll their eyes too hard at.”

Anita Hill is a professor and author. Her new book is Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence.

"I really do feel that my life now has purpose. And my responsibility really is to live out that purpose as much as possible. The reason that this isn’t entirely daunting is that I realize I am one individual. And that the issues will not depend on me entirely. … But I also realize that every person who has the opportunity should be involved, and that includes me."

Ben Austen is a journalist and the author of High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing. Khalil Gibran Muhammad is the Ford Foundation Professor of History, Race and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School and the author of The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America. Together they host the podcast Some of My Best Friends Are.

”We're not pretending to have all the answers, but we are attempting to say, ‘this is a real issue and it can't be covered up by simply ignoring it.’ And if you can see it for what it is and all of its full dimensions, you have a better shot at bringing people along to get the work done to fix it.”

Casey Johnston is a journalist and editor who writes the column "Ask A Swole Woman," which now appears in her newsletter ”She's a Beast.”

”I feel more comfortable lately with a sort of beloved-local-restaurant level of success. What's nice about Substack is that we've come to this place, that I hope lasts, where we can have this sort of local-restaurant relationship with writers, or I can have that with readers, where I don't have to be part of this big machine in order to do something that I really like.”

Mitchell S. Jackson is a journalist and author. His profile of Ahmaud Arbery, ”Twelve Minutes and a Life,” won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

”What is 'great'? 'Great' isn’t really sales, right? No one cares what James Baldwin sold. So: Are you doing the important work?”

Ben Smith is the media columnist for The New York Times. He was the founding editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News.

“I do think there's some kind of personality flaw deep in there of wanting to like, you know, find stuff out and tell people.... I'm not sure that's a totally sane or healthy personality trait, but it is definitely, for me, a personality trait…. I think that in political reporting, certainly, there's a kind of reporter who thinks that their job is basically to pull the masks off of these monsters. And I generally tend to think all these people—with some exceptions—are weird and complicated and often doing really awful things. But they aren't necessarily irredeemable or impossible to understand. They're interesting.”

Jay Caspian Kang is a contributor at New York Times Magazine. His new book is The Loneliest Americans.

”I have a lot of thoughts and talk to people to make sure my thoughts are right, or change them because I think they're wrong. What more does one want out of an intellectual life? It's good work.”

Mary Roach is the author of seven nonfiction books, including her latest, Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law.

"In these realms of the taboo, there's a tremendous amount of material that is really interesting, but that people have stayed away from. ... I'm kind of a bottom feeder. It's down there on the bottom where people don't want to go. But if that's what it takes to find interesting, new material, I'm fine with it. I don't care. I'm not easily grossed out. I don't feel that there's any reason why we shouldn't look at this. And over time, I started to feel that ... the taboo was preventing people from having conversations that it would be healthy to have."

E. Alex Jung is a senior writer for Vulture and New York

”When I'm in that space, I try to be a sponge. I'll just absorb whatever's happening or going on, and I'll be down to do mostly anything. I was actually thinking recently about what my limits would be in a profile. I was like—heroin? I don't think I would do that.”

Max Chafkin is a features editor and reporter for Bloomberg Businessweek. His new book is The Contrarian: Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley’s Pursuit of Power.

“I think there's like a really good way to come up with story ideas where you basically just look for people who have given TED Talks and figure out what they're lying about. And there's also a tendency in the press to pump up these startups based on those stories. ... It's worth taking a critical look at these stars of the moment. Because often there's not as much there as we think. And if you’re talking about Theranos or something, there's some potential to do harm—but also it means that maybe more worthwhile efforts are not getting the attention they deserve.”

Hannah Giorgis is a staff writer at The Atlantic. Her latest feature is "Most Hollywood Writers’ Rooms Look Nothing Like America.”

”In general, when we talk about representation, we talk about what we see on our screens. We're talking about actors, we're talking about who are the lead characters, what are the storylines that they're getting. And I'm always interested in that. But I'm really, really interested in power ... how it operates, and process.”

Sarah A. Topol is a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine. Her latest feature is ”Is Taiwan Next?”

”I think you never actually ask people head-on about what they've been through. You always ask people to just tell you what they want to tell you about anything that has happened to them…. This event that happened to you, it doesn't define you. It’s not why I'm here necessarily. Like, tell me about your childhood. Tell me about your life. Tell me about the things you think are important in your community. And by the time we get to the traumatic part, I hope they've seen enough of who I am and how I interview to feel comfortable telling me that they don't want to talk about certain things.”

Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker.

”There’s nothing more important about a person than their story. In a way, that’s who we are. And yet, memories fade and people die. So those stories disappear and the job of the journalist is to go out before that happens and accumulate the kinds of stories that are going to help us understand who we are, why we are, where we are right now in time, and try to thread those stories into a coherent narrative. In a way, you give it a kind of immortality. And that’s a big job. It’s a great privilege.”

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are documentary filmmakers. Their latest miniseries is Allen v. Farrow.

”We're constantly looking for those moments that happen before the story is ever told. Or those moments where someone is deciding to tell a story or is going through a process that they think is private. … We think there's something about getting the moment before the first moment that people normally see.”

Roger Bennett is a co-host of Men In Blazers and the author of (Re)born in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home.

“So much of my work is about human tenacity. That value of perseverance, of driving onwards. I believe life is about darkness and happiness. I believe that nothing is given, you fight for everything. And how you operate in moments of doubt and darkness ultimately define you. So I talk a lot as a professional about tenacity. What I've never linked that to before was my own biography. What did surprise me when I read the book as not being about me, but just read it as a book, was how bloody tenacious I was in fleeting moments of real awfulness.”

Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang are reporters for the New York Times. They are coauthors of An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination.

“There are two types of reporters. There are reporters who date and reporters who marry. I think both Cecilia and I are reporters who marry our sources and by that I mean they are lifelong sources. It’s not a relationship that you build quickly. It’s one where you have to really let them get to know you as a journalist, show them that you are always going to be honest and do what you say and protect their anonymity and that you’re not biased. I think some reporters make mistakes in that they try to curry favor with sources by writing things they think the sources will like and I think sources actually respect you more when you show them: no I am accurate and I am honest and I am objective and I’m actually going to check what you tell me so that I know it’s true and you know I am doing my homework on everything.”

Julie K. Brown is an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald. Her new book is Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story.

“No reporter wants to be a part of the story. ... But the one thing I know is that the authorities weren't going to do anything about this unless it stayed in the news and there was pressure. And I thought the only way to do pressure was to continue to write stories and to be in their face by going on TV. So I took advantage of the fact that I am sort of a part of this story in the hope that it would pressure authorities to do something about it.”

Doree Shafrir is a co-host of podcast Forever35, the former executive editor of Buzzfeed, and the author of the new memoir Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer.

”Right now I can make my living from podcasting, but I don’t know what the advertising market for podcasts is going to look like in five years or even one year. The blog advertising market cratered. So one of the challenges of being my own ‘brand’ is that I always do have to think about, what is the next thing? Because in my experience in media, nothing is ever good for too long.”

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Jessica Bruder is a journalist and author of the book Nomadland.

“I don’t do a hard sell. I’ll tell people what my MO is, but I don’t push people to talk with me. I want to go deep with people. I want to be able to have the time to just sit with them and to say, ‘start at the beginning.’ Sometimes going chronologically will just take you to these places that wouldn’t have come up if I’ve just done a very guided interview. So I hung out. I’m not relentless. I don’t wear people down. But I stick around. If people just want me to fuck off, I fuck off, and I talk to other people..”

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Robert McKee is an author and screenwriting lecturer. His new book is Character: The Art of Role and Cast Design for Page, Stage, and Screen.

”When I'm in conversation with others, I'm always aware—or sensitive, at least—to what they're really thinking and feeling. And writers must have that. They can't possibly create excellent nonfiction or fiction if they're not aware of what is going on inside of other people, really, even subconsciously, while they go about saying whatever they do consciously in the world. Because if you just recorded the surface, if you were just paying attention to the surface, you'd be missing the whole show.”

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Aaron Lammer is a co-host of the Longform Podcast and the host of the podcast Exit Scam: The Death and Afterlife of Gerald Cotten.

“Something I got from a number of reporters that I’ve interviewed on the Longform Podcast is letting the story guide you, and ultimately that led me to an ambiguous ending. Early on, I was like, the pinnacle achievement is to solve this case. But ultimately, I felt like an ambiguous ending was the most honest to what I actually experienced in reporting it.”

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Megha Rajagopalan is a senior correspondent for Buzzfeed News. She won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Xinjiang detention camps.

“It’s not so much that I talk to [the Chinese government] to get information. It’s more that I talk to them to see how they think about things and what’s important to them and what’s their view of the world. … There are so many journalists that have been thrown out of China, so there’s very few people that are able to actually have those conversations. And in the U.S., there are these seismic decisions being made about China policy, and if you don’t talk to the people that run the country, it’s a problem.”

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Barrett Swanson is a contributing editor at Harper’s and the author of Lost in Summerland.

“You just have to sit there for a long time. That lesson was indisputably crucial for me. Just being willing to talk to someone, even if the first half-hour or hour is unutterably boring, or it doesn’t seem pertinent. These little things, the deeper things, take a while to get at and they kind of burble to the surface at moments when you’re not totally expecting it to happen. So for me, it’s just making myself available for that moment to occur.”

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Dan Rather is a journalist, author, and the former anchor of CBS Evening News.

”I knew that being named to succeed Walter Cronkite would put me in a position of inhaling—every day—a kind of NASA-grade rocket fuel for the ego. And that could be dangerous…. In the end, when the red light goes on, it's just you. You're by yourself.… And the longer you're in that role, the more difficult it is to stay true to yourself and to remember who you are and who you want to be.”

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