Stephanie McCrummen is a national enterprise reporter at The Washington Post.

“I do have to psych myself up. There’s always something awkward about it and that never goes away. … No matter how long I do this job, that part of it doesn’t get any easier. It’s always a bit awkward and you’re always sort of humbled when someone actually is willing to talk to you. Then it can be kind of thrilling, once you’re in it, once you’re actually in the conversation. ... But the moment a few seconds before that is still—to this day, it’s sort of an act of will.”

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Olivia Nuzzi is the White House correspondent for New York.

“I don’t think that, broadly speaking, this a group of redeemable people. … But I do think there is tremendous value, in this first draft of history, trying to understand why the fuck they are like this. … There is value in understanding why these people are like this because they are the reason why we are here in this situation. And I think it’s a [question] that historians will try to answer years from now. … I view my job as providing fodder for that.”

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Reeves Wiedeman is a reporter at New York Magazine and the author of the new book Billion Dollar Loser.

“You get inside these companies and … you assume everything is running based on models and numbers and then you get inside and it’s just people. And sometimes they have MBAs and sometimes they don’t. … At the end of the day, whether you’re running a media company or an office space company, it’s all people making these decisions and they often do very strange, contradictory, and ultimately unsuccessful things.”

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Latif Nasser co-hosts Radiolab. He also hosted The Other Latif and the Netflix documentary series Connected.

“It’s so easy to hate everything and be cynical. There’s a kind of ease to that. It takes a lot more courage to go up in front of everybody and be like, This is awesome. I love this. That takes a lot of guts, I think.”

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Barton Gellman is a staff writer for The Atlantic and was previously a Pulitzer-winning reporter at The Washington Post. His latest book is Dark Mirror: Edward Snowden and the American Surveillance State and his latest essay is "The Election That Could Break America."

“I have found that I have a talent for accidentally pissing people off. ... I’m interested most in accountability and the use and abuse of power. So naturally it’s going to annoy people sometimes. And sometimes they take it like grown-ups and sometimes less so.”

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Latria Graham is a writer living in South Carolina. Her work has appeared in Outside, Garden & Gun, The Guardian, and The New York Times. Her latest essay is "Out There, Nobody Can Hear You Scream."

“My goal as a person—not just as a writer—is to be the adult that I needed when I was younger. That’s why I go and talk to college classes. That’s why I write some of these vulnerable things, to let people that are struggling know that they’re not on their own. … I have to be unmerciful to myself, I think, in order to do it. I really do try to dissect myself and my mistakes. And just kind of say, Here’s the full deck of my life. Take from it what you need. But I’m not holding out on you.

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Nicholson Baker is the author of 18 books of fiction and nonfiction. He has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s, and many other publications. His latest book is Baseless: My Search for Secrets in the Ruins of the Freedom of Information Act.

"In the end, I don’t care how famous you get, how widely read you are during your lifetime. You’re going to be forgotten. And you’re going to have five or six fans in the end. It’s going to be your grandchildren or your great-grandchildren are going to say, Oh, yeah, he was big. … So I think the key is, write what you actually care about. Because in the end, you’re only doing this for yourself. … So maybe do your best stuff for yourself and for the three, four, five people who know in the coming century that you ever existed. That’s all you need to do."

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Elizabeth Weil covers California and the climate for ProPublica. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, California Sunday, and more.

“As a journalist you’re endlessly asking people to tell you really personal, really vulnerable stuff about their lives. And I feel like you have to be willing to be in that conversation too—or really think about why you’re not willing.”

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Jiayang Fan is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her latest article is a "How My Mother and I Became Chinese Propaganda."

"I think considering the unusual shape of our lives—the lives of my mother and I—from bare subsistence to one of the richest enclaves in America … it made me think about what the value of existence is. ... It made me wonder, What should a person be? And how should a person be? And being a writer has been a lifelong quest to answer those questions."

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Claudia Rankine is a poet, essayist, and playwright. She is the author of the new book, Just Us: An American Conversation.

“I began to wonder, why am I maintaining civility around things that are actually very important to me? This might be the only chance I get to stand up for myself. As Claudia. As a Black person. As a Black woman. As an American citizen. So what am I waiting for? What am I preserving when the thing I am supposedly preserving is also the thing that is on some level killing me?”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author and journalist. He served as guest editor for the September issue of Vanity Fair, titled "The Great Fire."

“There’s this pressure to say something. Say something. The world’s burning, say something. But I try to stay where I’ve been or where I’ve tried to be in my career. ... Good things take time. You gotta let things cook. You can’t insta-bake something like this.”

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Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg are the co-authors of the new book I Got A Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad.

“We really wanted to create some kind of leftist, anti-racist true crime story that we really haven’t seen. The conventions of the thriller often smuggle in all of this really right-wing, pro-police propaganda that all of our cops were raised on—the story of cops having to crash cars and break rules in order to get the bad guys. We wanted to take that and subvert it, using its methods to blow it up from the inside while also being rigorously reported.”

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Andrea Valdez is the editor-in-chief of The 19th*.

“You know how sometimes you hear a song and you think, Gosh, it feels like that song has always existed and an artist just plucked it out of the air and played it and now it’s a part of our musical canon? I really hope that The 19th* is a news organization where it feels like it has always been, should have always been, and will always be there.”

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Jason Parham is a senior writer at Wired.

“I think of myself some days as a critic. Some days I think of myself as a journalist. But I essentially mostly think of myself as an essayist, somebody who is trying to bridge those two traditions. My approach to writing now is kind of simple…I’m always writing about things I like and want to hear about.”

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Jenny Kleeman is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of the new book Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death.

“It’s better to cover one thing in a really illuminating way than to try and explore every single aspect of a topic in a really superficial way. So if there’s one thing that particularly interests you or fascinates you, if there’s just one question you want to ask, do as much research as you can on that one question and you’ll end up with a much more illuminating interview than something that is a precis of their entire field. Because anyone can do that.”

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Seyward Darby is the editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine and the author of Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.

“The most enlightening thing I learned in working on this book ultimately was that when we think of hate we think of animosity. Hate means I do not like someone or I do not like something. I deplore it. I despise it. But hate as a movement is actually a lot more like any social movement where it’s providing something to its supporters, members, acolytes that they were seeking but didn’t necessarily know where they were going to find it. So it could be camaraderie, it could be power, it could be purpose, in some cases it could be money. There’s something terrifyingly mundane about that.”

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Raquel Willis, the former executive editor of Out, is an activist, journalist, and writer.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter.

“To my peers, I would just say that we have to rethink our idea of leadership. Rethink our idea of storytelling. As the media, we shouldn’t be seeing ourselves as the owners and the gatekeepers of people’s stories. We actually need to be democratizing this experience—sharing the tools of storytelling with other folks. Folks are hungry to tell their own stories and may not always have the tools.”

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Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are co-hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend and co-authors of the new book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.

“People telling you about their lives is a real privilege and honor. No one owes you to tell you their story. Sometimes in the world of people who write or people who make media there is just this expectation that everything is on the table, especially if you’re two women who make media, that we’re supposed to just share our pain and everything that’s going on in our lives but that’s not fair and it’s not true and I think the larger project of this book is really sharing these stories in service of having an honest dialogue about how other people are doing friendship.”

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Maria Konnikova is a journalist, professional poker player, and author of the new book The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.

“I do think that writing and psychology are so closely interlinked. The connections between the human mind and writing are in some ways the same thing. If you’re a good writer, you have to be a good, intuitive psychologist. You have to understand people, observe them, and really figure out what makes them tick.”

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Tessie Castillo, a journalist covering criminal justice reform, and George Wilkerson, a prisoner on death row in North Carolina, are two of the co-authors of Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row.

“I want other people to see what I see, which is that the men on death row are human beings. They’re incredibly intelligent and insightful and they have so many redemptive qualities...I don’t think I could really convey that as well as if they get their own voice out there. So I wanted this book to be a platform for them and for their voices.” –Tessie Castillo

“For me, writing was like a form of conversation with myself or with my past, like therapy. So I just chose these periods in my life that I didn’t really understand and that were really powerful and impactful to me, and I just sat down and started writing to understand them and make peace with them.” –George Wilkerson

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Dean Baquet is executive editor of The New York Times.

"I always tried to question what is the difference between what is truly tradition and core, and what is merely habit. A lot of stuff we think are core, are just habits. The way we write newspaper stories, that’s not core, that’s habit. I think that’s the most important part about leading a place that’s going through dramatic change and even generational change. You’ve got to say, here’s what’s not going to change. This is core. This is who we are. Everything else is sort of up for grabs."

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Jacqueline Charles is the Caribbean correspondent at the Miami Herald.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter.

"There are things that you see that if you start taking it in, you’re never going to stop and you’re not going to be able to do your job…I have family in all of these countries and when disaster strikes, you can’t help everyone. But what you hope is that with your pen, with your voice, with your recording of history…somebody somewhere will feel compelled to do something. So that’s what keeps me going."

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Kierna Mayo is the showrunner and head writer for the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact. She is the former editor-in-chief of EBONY and Honey Magazine, which she co-founded at age 27.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter. Her most recent article is "Black Journalists Are Exhausted," an op-ed published in The New York Times.

“Advocacy is not a bad word. Telling the truth about a particular slice of life is what my career has been. That slice of life started about young people who were partaking in hip hop culture. Most of them were of color, most of them were poor. So that was a perspective. If you begin to tell the stories of those people at that time, that begins to have an advocacy feel and taste and touch. Not even with a consciousness to it. Because this is a lost voice. This is a lost point of view. It is not in the mainstream. It is not being centered. No one is telling it. So the mere act of shedding light journalistically in places where there has been no light before is advocacy. Sorry, journalists. Sorry, all you impartial, fair-and-balanced folks.”

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Wesley Lowery is a correspondent for “60 in 6” from 60 Minutes. He is the author of They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for "Fatal Force," a Washington Post project covering fatal shootings by police officers.

“The police are not, in and of themselves, objective observers of things. They are political and government entities who are the literal characters in the story. They are describing the actions of people who are protesting them. They have incentives.”

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Philip Montgomery is a photojournalist.

“The photographers that I grew up on all sort of had their moment… I sort of had, in this weird way, this feeling of envy that they had their moment with this story that was all-encompassing. Looking at it now, this is the story of my time, and it’s a little more than I perhaps bargained for.”

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