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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Katherine Eban is an investigative journalist and contributor to Vanity Fair. Her latest article is ”The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins.”

”You can't make a correction unless you know why something happened. So imagine—if this is a lab leak—the earth shattering consequences for virology. For the science community, for how research is done, for how research is regulated. Or if it is a zoonotic origin, we have to know how our human incursion into wild spaces could be unleashing these viruses. Because COVID-19 is one thing, but we're going to be looking at COVID-25 and COVID-34. We have to know what caused this.”

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Rose Eveleth is the host of Flash Forward and the author of Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide to Possible (and Not So Possible) Tomorrows.

“If I didn’t have that pretty bizarrely insatiable drive to do this stuff and understand things, I don’t know if I’d still be doing this. The curiosity index has to be high in order to make the rest of it worth it. Because otherwise, what’s the point?”

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Theo Padnos is a journalist and author of the book Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture, and Enlightenment.

“I'm trying to tell a story about a person who's attracted to dangerous places and people. I think we all have that within us. I wanted to bring my readers along. So I selected details that we all have in common... I'm trying to invite you along on a journey that you yourself might have taken.”

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Donovan X. Ramsey is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in GQ, WSJ Magazine, The Atlantic, and many other publications.

“I actually got into writing about criminal justice ... because I was curious about Black life. But that meant the only way I was able to do that was I had to kind of do this really often depressing slice of Black life. And there’s so much more. And there’s so much beauty in the lived experiences of Black people. … There are so many stories that just never get told about Black life. One, I have a connection to being a Black person, but then being a Black person who has the benefit of a really good education, and I’ve been given some shots here and there… it feels like a duty. If I’m not going to tell these stories, then who?”

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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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