Isaac Chotiner conducts interviews for The New Yorker.

“People like to talk. They like to be asked questions, generally. In the space that I’m doing most interviews, which is politics or politics-adjacent, people have strong views and like to express them. It may be just as simple as that.”

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David Haskell is the editor-in-chief of New York Magazine.

“Fingers crossed, knock on wood, we've got time here. You can't ever take that for granted, but I think it's fair to indulge a long-term perspective. More than fair, actually — I think it's part of the job, for me at least, to be plotting and dreaming years out. And to be fashioning the magazine toward that long-term vision as gingerly as I can without it breaking.”

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Cheryl Strayed is the author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things. Her new podcast is Sugar Calling.

“I think that we have this limited idea of what ambition is. All through my twenties, you wouldn’t necessarily have looked at me and been like, ‘she’s ambitious.’ I mean, I was working as a waitress. I was goofing around and doing all kinds of things. But I was always writing. And I was always really sure and clear and serious about my writing. My ambition was this secret thing within me that I dedicated myself to.”

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Bonnie Tsui is a journalist and author of the new book Why We Swim.

“I am a self-motivated person. I really don’t like being told what to do. I’ve thought about this many times over the last 16 years that I’ve been a full-time freelancer... even though I thought my dream was to always and forever be living in New York, working in publishing, working at a magazine, being an editor, writing. When I was an editor, I kind of hated it. I just didn’t like being chained to a desk.”

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Lulu Miller is a former producer at Radiolab and a co-founder of Invisibilia. Her new book is Why Fish Don't Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life.

“I think almost every radio story I’ve ever done comes down to the question of me trying to ask a person how they get through this life thing. How they get through this breakup. How they get through being disabled in a family that's crushing them. How they get through having a head that's poisonous. Every story is just, Oh, what's your trick?

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Naomi Klein is a senior correspondent at The Intercept and the author of The Shock Doctrine and No Logo. Her most recent book is On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.

“I have no idea whether we will do this. All I know is there is a slim chance, a very slim chance, that we could make things a lot better than if we do nothing and just let it burn. The stakes of that are so high that I’m not going to spend my time trying to figure out whether our chances are good or not. I’m just gonna try to enlarge those chances.”

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Eva Holland is a freelance journalist and a correspondent for Outside. Her new book is Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear.

“I'm less caught up in my freelance career anxieties every day that this goes on. Maybe I'll become a paramedic, who knows? Magazines I write for are already shutting down because of this. You can only freak out so much before you decide that if you end up having to find a new way to make a living, that's what you'll do.”

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Ed Yong is the author of I Contain Multitudes and a science writer at The Atlantic. His most recent article is "How the Pandemic Will End."

“Normally when I write things that are about a pressing societal issue, those pieces feel like they’re about things that need to get solved in timeframes of, say, months or years. ... But now I’m writing pieces that are affecting people’s choices and lives, and hopefully the direction of the entire country, on an hourly basis. The changes I hope to see, I hope to see immediately. Like right now. And that does create a massive sense of urgency, a sense of pressing, incredibly high stakes. And it’s a burden.”

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Charlie Warzel is a writer-at-large for The New York Times opinion page.

“I’m relying on my morals more than I normally do, but less on my gut. The stakes are just so high.”

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Jon Mooallem is a journalist, author, and host of The Walking Podcast. His latest book is This is Chance!: The Shaking of an All-American City, A Voice That Held It Together.

“There is this impulse that we have, this very clearly documented impulse that people everywhere have, to help. It sounds tacky, but when the bottom drops out, when ordinary life is overturned and there’s this upheaval or this disruption—if it’s a natural disaster or even something like this, that there’s ... in the book I call it a ‘civic immune response.’ People do spontaneously help each other, they work together, they collaborate. This whole idea that society falls apart and everyone descends into madness and violence is just not true. And we know that. We have science that shows it.”

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Jad Abumrad is the co-creator and host of Radiolab. His latest podcast is Dolly Parton's America.

“There’s a way in which, I think, it felt more honest to be more confused in our stories. So that’s where we went.”

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Mara Hvistendahl is a freelance reporter and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her first book, Unnatural Selection. Her new book is The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage.

“In times of tension, Cold War historians believe that there’s this mirroring that goes on, that we start to behave like the enemy, and that that is the big risk. And I feel like that’s the moment we’re in now.”

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Hannah Dreier is a reporter at The Washington Post and the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

“You can’t come up with a good story idea in the office. I’ve never had a good idea that I just came up with out of thin air. It always comes from being on the ground.”

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Ronan Farrow is a Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter for The New Yorker. He is the author of Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators and hosts The Catch and Kill Podcast.

“It was the opposite of anything I would’ve expected, breaking a story like that. It wasn’t a moment of celebration. I was immensely relieved, and immensely grateful for the sources … and I was so grateful for those people at the New Yorker who had worked so hard. But it was a strange, numb time for me that ended, at the end of that day, with me bursting into tears.”

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Joshua Yaffa is a Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker. His first book is Between Two Fires: Truth, Ambition, and Compromise in Putin's Russia.

“Especially in a place like Russia, where there’s a lot of sensitivity around what people might tell you—when they do open up to you, there’s a lot of trust there. And you better not abuse it or mishandle it, because you could put people in danger. Just being a decent person, and demonstrating that decency, goes a long way.”

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Ashley C. Ford is a writer and host of the podcast Fortune Favors the Bold. Her memoir, Somebody's Daughter, is forthcoming from Flatiron Books.

“For the first time I felt like I had so many more choices in my life than I originally thought I had. That was my first realization that I did not just have to react to the world, that I could be intentional in the world, and just curious about what came back to me.”

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Andrea Bernstein is a journalist and co-host of Trump, Inc., a podcast from WNYC and ProPublica. Her new book is American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power.

“Hope is an action. And I feel that writing and documenting is an action. When I stop doing those things, I will be hopeless. But because I am still doing those things, it means that I still have hope… so long as we continue to be actors in the world, we can be hopeful human beings.”

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Kevin Kelly is a writer and a founding executive editor of Wired Magazine. He is the author of What Technology Wants, Out of Control and The Inevitable: Understanding the Twelve Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future.

“I always try to write about the future—and it became harder and harder because things would catch up so fast. If you read Out of Control now, I’ve heard that people say, ‘well, this is obvious.’ I have to tell you, it was dismissed as entirely pie-in-the-sky, wild-eyed craziness twenty-five years ago.”

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Katherine Eban is an investigative journalist and contributing writer at Fortune Magazine. Her new book is Bottle of Lies: The Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom.

“I am not known for my optimism. I think it’s hard to do this work and retain a sunny view of humankind. I hate to say that. On the other hand, I do believe there will always be whistleblowers. And it’s interesting to me that even in the darkest spaces, even when it looks like everything is arrayed against them, there are people who will say: ‘This just isn’t right, and I must do something.’ Which is kind of extraordinary.”

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Cord Jefferson is a journalist turned television writer whose credits include Succession, The Good Place, and Watchmen.

“I’m a fearful person. I’m afraid of a lot of things. I’m afraid of how people perceive me, I’m afraid of hurting myself, I’m afraid of heights. I’m afraid of a lot. Bravery does not come naturally to me. But the moments when I feel like I’ve done the best in my life and been the proudest of myself are when I’ve overcome that fear to do something that scares me.”

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Elizabeth Wurtzel, who died today, was the author of four books, including Prozac Nation. This episode was originally published in October 2013.

"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."

Jerry Saltz is a Pulitzer-winning art critic for New York.

“To this day I wake up early and I have to get to my desk to write almost immediately. I mean fast. Before the demons get me. I got to get writing. And once I’ve written almost anything, I’ll pretty much write all day, I don’t leave my desk, I have no other life. I’m not part of the world except when I go to see shows.”

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Liana Finck, a cartoonist and illustrator, contributes to The New Yorker and is the author of Excuse Me and Passing for Human.

"I was drawing since I was 10 months old. My mom had left this vibrant community of architects and art people to live in this idyllic country setting with my dad, and she poured all of her art feelings into me. She really praised me for being this baby genius, which I may or may not have been. But I grew up thinking I was an amazing artist. There weren’t any other artists around besides my mom, so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. There were no art classes around. … I was so shy, so I was just always drawing and making things."

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Mina Kimes is a senior writer at ESPN and host of the podcast ESPN Daily.

“What I’ve found, and this is something I did not know would be the case going into it, is that sports stories—and, at the risk of sounding a bit self-important, maybe someone like me writing sports stories or talking about it in particular—can have an impact in other ways that have revealed themselves to me over time.”

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Andy Greenberg is a senior writer for Wired. His new book is Sandworm.

“I kind of knew I was never going to get access to Sandworm, which is the title of the book - so it was all about drawing a picture around this invisible monster.”

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