Adam McKay is a film director, writer, and host of the podcast Death at the Wing.

“Sometimes you do a project and then you look back and you’re like, Ah, shit. I let some of myself get in the way of that. It sucks, but it’s also a part of it. And there are so many times where you’re excited that the story did take off, the wind did catch the sail and it went off on its own. And that just feels so good that it far outweighs the times when you make a mistake, or let something go wrong, or too long, or hit the wrong tone. Which is going to happen. There’s no way around it. But those times when it all just catches perfectly—it’s just so exciting that you keep doing it.”

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Anna Sale is the host of Death, Sex & Money. Her new book is Let’s Talk About Hard Things.

“What hard conversations can do is—you can witness what's hard. You can be with what's hard. Admit what's hard. That can be its own relief. … Some hard conversations … are successful when they end in a place that's like, Oh, we're not going to agree on this. … I think you can get used to the feeling of feeling out of control and that makes them less scary.”

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Brooke Jarvis is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.

“Obsession is inherently interesting. We want to know why somebody would care so much about something that it could direct their whole life. ... When people care about something a lot, what can be more interesting than that to understand what drives those powerful emotions? ... Part of why I do this work is that I am able to get temporarily obsessed with a lot of different things and then move on to the next thing that I'm temporarily obsessed with. ... There's always a new question that I want to follow.”

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Michael Grabell and Bernice Yeung are investigative reporters at ProPublica. They won the George Polk Award for Health Reporting for their coverage of the meatpacking industry's response to the pandemic, including their feature "The Battle for Waterloo."

This is final part of a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Roberto Ferdman is a correspondent at VICE News. He and his colleagues at VICE News Tonight won the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for their coverage of the killing of Breonna Taylor and the investigations that followed.

This is part four in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman are reporters at BuzzFeed News. Together they won this year's George Polk Award for Business Reporting for their coverage of Facebook's handling of disinformation on its platform. 

This is the second in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Tristan Ahtone is the former Indigenous Affairs editor at High Country News and is currently the editor-in-chief at The Texas Observer. His High Country News article “Land-Grab Universities,” co-authored with Robert Lee, won the 2021 George Polk Award for Education Reporting.

This is the first in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Dana Goodyear is a staff writer for The New Yorker and host of the new podcast Lost Hills.

“I do find people who take risks—artistic and physical or even intellectual risks—really interesting. ... There are so many people that I have written about who take a really long time with their projects, whether years or decades, and they might or might not work out. ... They just don't go along with what's received, and they—at a great personal cost—often do things that are very different. And then those things are the things in our world that are the most fascinating or feel the most human.”

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Albert Samaha is an investigative journalist and the deputy inequality editor at BuzzFeed News. His book Concepcion: An Immigrant Family's Fortunes comes out in October.

“I don’t think any child of the recession will ever not feel precarious. And being in journalism makes that even more so. ... At this point I’ve embraced the precarity of working in this industry. I’m sure at some point it’s going to be grating for people to hear me talk about how precarious and insecure I feel. … But I’ve got too many friends who are way too talented, who can’t use that talent in the ways that they are passionate about, for me to ever feel like my place in this industry is fully cemented.”

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Jessica Lessin is founder and editor-in-chief of The Information.

“It's very, very hard to predict the winners. A lot of investors try to do this. And I think sometimes where the press gets in trouble is trying to make a call.… It's not always our job to say this thing is doomed or not. I think many journalists, unfortunately, are more interested in that than in understanding, What is this company trying to do?

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Elon Green is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Awl, New York, and other publications. His new book is Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York.

“The murders and the murderer should not be the driver. It should simply be the catalyst for the other story. And the other story is the victims. And the other story is the political backdrop and the environment that they are walking through.”

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Jess Zimmerman is editor-in-chief of Electric Literature. Her new book is Women and Other Monsters.

“My goals are to be exactly as vulnerable as I feel is necessary. And not that’s necessary to me—that's necessary to the observer, to the reader. If [my story] is out there, it's out there because in order to make the larger point that I wanted to make … I had to give this level of access. It does kind of feel more strategic than cathartic.”

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Tejal Rao is the California restaurant critic for The New York Times and a columnist for The New York Times Magazine.

“I've been thinking a lot about what makes a restaurant good. Can a restaurant be good if it doesn't have wheelchair access? Can a restaurant be good if the farmers picking the tomatoes are getting sick? How much do we consider when we talk about if a restaurant is good or not? … If people are being exploited at every single point possible along the way, how good is the restaurant, really? … I worry that the pandemic has illuminated all of these issues and things are just going to keep going the way that they were. ... That's what I worry about. That nothing will change.”

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Connie Walker is an investigative reporter and podcast host. Her new show is Stolen: The Search for Jermain.

“For so long, there has been this kind of history of journalists coming in and taking stories from Indigenous communities. And that kind of extractive, transactional kind of journalism really causes a lot of harm. And so much of our work is trying to undo and address that. There is a way to be a storyteller and help amplify and give people agency in their stories.”

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Vinson Cunningham is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

“I think the job is just paying a bunch of attention. If you're a person like me, where thoughts and worries are intruding on your consciousness all the time, it is a great relief to have something to just over-describe and over-pay-attention to—and kind of just give all of your latent, usually anxious attention to this one thing. That, to me, is a great joy.”

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Katie Engelhart is a journalist and the author of the new book The Inevitable: Dispatches on the Right to Die.

“Billions of dollars of government money goes to the nursing home industry every year. And nobody has a nursing home correspondent. Nobody has an assisted living correspondent…. That's wild to me. As a journalist, someone tells me, Oh, there's an industry. It's hugely underregulated. It's getting billions of dollars a year. It is not super-accountable for that money. Who wouldn't want to cover that?”

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Luke Mogelson is a journalist and fiction writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and other publications. His latest feature is ”Among the Insurrectionists.”

“Get to the front and document as much as you can. ... I think my approach is much more similar to photographers than other writers. I spend a lot of time with photographers and ... I feel like I've gotten pretty good at getting myself into situations where there's few or maybe no other writers around, but there's always a bunch of photographers…. I try to get in right behind the first photographers.”

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Mirin Fader is a staff writer for The Ringer.

“Nobody ever makes it makes it, right? You make it, and every day, you have to keep making it. That’s how I feel. Would I be the reporter I am if I wasn’t like that? I’m afraid to see what happens if I’m not. I’m afraid what type of reporter or writer I’ll be if I take my foot off the gas.”

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Stephanie Clifford is an investigative journalist and novelist who has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and many other publications. Her most recent article is "The Journalist and the Pharma Bro."

“I think your job as a journalist—particularly with people who are in vulnerable situations or people who are not used to press—is to explain what the fallout might be."

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Kenneth R. Rosen has written for The New York Times, Wired, The New Yorker, and many other publications. His new book is Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs.

“When I report, I keep two journals. … I keep my reporting notebook, which is sort of an almanac of dates, times, names, quotes, phone numbers. And then I have my personal notebook, which has all my fears and anxieties. And it invariably makes its way into the reporting … which is sort of an amalgamation of those two journals, of those two experiences, the internal and the external.”

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Ed Yong spent 2020 covering the pandemic for The Atlantic. His latest feature is "How Science Beat the Virus."

“I am trying to give readers a platform that they can stand on to observe this raging torrent that is the pandemic, this cascade of information that is threatening to sweep us all away. I’m trying to give people a rock on which they can stand so that they can observe what is happening without themselves being submerged by it. But I am trying to construct that platform while also being submerged in it.”

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Nilay Patel is editor-in-chief of The Verge and hosts the podcast Decoder.

“The instant ability—unmanaged ability—for people to say horrible things to each other because of phones is tearing our culture apart. It just is. And so sometimes, I’m like, Man, I wish our headline had been: ‘iPhone Released. It’s A Mistake.’ … But I think there’s a really important flipside to that … a bunch of teenagers are able to create culture at a scale that has never been possible before. Also, a bunch of marginalized communities are able to speak with coordinated voices and make change very rapidly. And that balance—I don’t think we’ve quite understood.”

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Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN. His new book is Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last.

“If you’re going to write a profile of someone … you have to find some piece of common ground with them so that no matter how famous or good or noble or bad—or no matter how cartoonish their most well-known attributes are—it shrinks them. And once they’re small enough to fit in your hand, I think it changes the entire experience of asking questions about their lives.”

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Melissa del Bosque is an investigative journalist covering the U.S.-Mexico border.

“What I really want people to know is the context within which this traumatic event is happening. It doesn’t have to happen. It’s happening because certain people made certain decisions. Or they made a decision to do nothing. … There are laws, there are policies on the books that are either being ignored or could be changed.”

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