“There'll be days where … I’m doing a walk and I'll just be like, I don't know what is going to move me today. And then out of the blue, there'll be this small interaction that when you really pay attention to it, it contains kind of this universe of kindness and patience that you otherwise pass by or ignore. If you're in the general mode of looking at things and then being able to take that experience and try to transmute it into an essay for the evening and send it out, it just develops your eye. You just start being able to look more and more and more closely.”
Mona Chalabi is a writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Guardian, where she is the data editor. Her New York Times Magazine piece “9 Ways to Imagine Jeff Bezos’ Wealth” won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Illustrated Reporting.
“I kind of think of protest as just saying what you believe. And sometimes, it’s considered protest because it’s outside of the institutions of power. So you’re saying, Hey, Palestinians deserve human rights, and that’s considered a form of protest, right? I want the work to change things and I think I’m quite unapologetic about that, and most journalists are like No no no no no, we’re just reporting the world, we’re just reporting things as we see it. There’s no desire for change. I think that is so messed up. This idea that your work has no impact in the world is incorrect. You can’t wash yourself of the consequences of the work, you have to be considering the consequences while you’re doing it.”
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist, author, and host of the podcasts Work Life and Re: Thinking. His new book is Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things.
“If you only focus on your own interest, you tend to develop novel ideas, but not necessarily useful ideas. And so for me, the audience is a filter. … I might have 30 ideas for a book. Let me hone in on the four or five that also might be relevant to other people. The goal there is to make a contribution.”
Jesse David Fox covers comedy for Vulture, where he hosts the podcast Good One. His new book is Comedy Book: How Comedy Conquered Culture—and the Magic That Makes It Work.
“There’s a complete lack of anyone who’s ever written about comedy seriously compared to any other art form. There’s just nothing. … So the challenge was, how do you start a conversation that no one has been participating in?”
Evan Hughes is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, GQ, The Atlantic, The Atavist and many others. His book, just out in paperback, is Pain Hustlers: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup.
“It should be called slow-form journalism…. It is heavily edited. It’s heavily fact checked. And chances are, you’re not going to be the first. Maybe you’re going to be first to reveal some piece of it. I have made peace with like, I’m not the scoop guy. I’m the person who comes in and I’m good at telling the story in a thorough and deep way.”
Yepoka Yeebo has written for The Guardian, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Quartz. Her new book is Anansi’s Gold: The Man Who Looted the West, Outfoxed Washington, and Swindled the World.
“Initially it was like, Why are you writing about a con man? He makes Ghana look bad. Nobody needs another crime story about an African person. I found that irritating, because isn't the whole point of being a complete person, complete people, is we contain multitudes? We too can be epic, world-leading con men! Also, it's a great story. Everybody should revel in the insanity of what happened.”
Clare Malone is a staff writer for The New Yorker, where she covers the media. Her latest article is ”Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Emotional Truths.’”
“You're going to work a lot of hours if you want to be successful, and you're probably not going to make as much money as your dumb friend from college does. You're choosing it for a different reason, but I do think we have to make efforts to have the [journalism] industry be a middle-class profession.”
Azam Ahmed is an international investigative correspondent for The New York Times. His new book is Fear Is Just a Word: A Missing Daughter, a Violent Cartel, and a Mother's Quest for Vengeance.
“I think the fundamental question I always ask when I go into a new place, whether I’m covering currencies, or hedge funds, or geopolitics in Afghanistan, or the war—it’s what does this mean to the world right now? What does the world need to know and how does it fit into that space?”
Kashmir Hill is a tech reporter for The New York Times. Her new book is Your Face Belongs to Us: A Secretive Startup’s Quest to End Privacy as We Know It.
“I often do feel like what my work is doing is preparing people for the way the world is going to change. With something like facial recognition technology, that's really important because if the world is changing such that every photo of you taken that's uploaded is going to be findable, it's going to change the decisions that you make.”
Zeke Faux is an investigative reporter for Bloomberg. His new book is Number Go Up: Inside Crypto’s Wild Rise and Staggering Fall.
“I have a rule of thumb, which is that if somebody did one scam, they probably did another scam. If they did one scam in the past and now they have a new thing, odds are good it’s also a scam. That’s not always true, but that was definitely borne out sometimes in crypto-world.”
Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet, lawyer, and founder of the nonprofit Freedom Reads. His New York Times Magazine article "Could an Ex-Convict Become an Attorney? I Intended to Find Out" won the National Magazine Award. His new podcast is Almost There.
“I felt like I had to own becoming something and intuitively understood that if I didn't lay claim to desiring to be something, that it would be too many other forces that would be pulling on me to dictate that I become something else. … When you say you're a writer, if you know nothing else, then you know that you read. You pay attention to the world. … And prison became the metaphor by which I understood the world and poetry became the medium by which I understood what it meant to write about the world and what it meant to take seriously the responsibility to write about the world that I knew.”
“I know I have much more anger than I reveal, and I don’t think that’s uncommon. Especially for women. There’s been a lot of attention to that in recent years—the anger of women, how it’s expressed and not expressed. But I think that among the things I’ve stifled for years are just my true feelings, and I’ve always wanted to be close to people and to be intimate with people, and have often felt that I have trouble making myself known or being known or being understood. And so...it felt good to be known.”
Jamie Loftus is a comedian, writer, and podcaster. Her new book is Raw Dog: The Naked Truth About Hot Dogs.
“Comedy has been super helpful to me because it's so based on failing every night sometimes that I wasn't afraid of failure in the same way because it's just like, Well, that's going to happen to me at some point this week. Why not in this format?”
“There was something that I felt eating away at me, which made me a very angry and volatile teenager. And I think I was an angry teenager because I had this trauma that nobody around me could talk about, and that I didn't have the right therapist to help me unpack. So the cheapest thing that I had was poetry.”
“I'm at the point where I'm only thinking about the big questions and the difficulty of being a human as what matter most. That's what I want to keep focusing on. Our common frailties, our common bonds, our common difficulties. Because clearly we are not going to bond politically as a nation, right? … But we can bond over our kids with disabilities. About the fact that we grieve, that we love, that we lose people. That we have friends that we love, friends that we hate. We have friendships that we miss, we have friendships that we can't live without.”
CN: “People actually like to be a little bit confused. They like listening to things where people are talking about things they don’t quite understand, which was very counterintuitive to me. I think a lot of editor-types would scoff at, but I’ve come around.”
KR: “We can revisit subjects and we do. We can change our minds. Print pieces feel so permanent, they feel so definitive. Podcasts, we can just sort of say, ‘I don't know what to make of this, ask me again in a month.’”
Jeff Goodell is a climate change writer for Rolling Stone and the author of seven books. His new book is The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet.
“I would not have said this even five years ago, but I have really come to see this now as a crime story. This is a kind of looting of the atmosphere of the earth, siphoning off resources and grossly profiting off of that at the expense of many other people—billions of people—on this planet. And I understand that’s a big thing to say, but I think it’s just pretty obviously true. … I don’t mean that personally that each one of them personally is a criminal. We are all complicit in this.”
Peter Shamshiri is a lawyer and co-host of the podcast 5-4.
“Because of the nature of law, I think a lot of journalists find it hard to take a position—or to sort of tip their hand about what they actually believe—because so much of the discourse around how law should operate is about neutrality and the general perspective that the law is non-partisan, non-ideological. I think the result is media coverage that is particularly lacking in those regards. And that's where we swoop in.”
Donovan X. Ramsey is a journalist and author of the new book When Crack Was King: A People’s History of a Misunderstood Era.
“I've only ever wanted to write about Black people—and that includes the elements of our lives that are difficult. I’ve always prided myself on being able to metabolize that information and not really be harmed by it. And this book really taught me that writing and processing is not just something that you do in your head. That the information does go through you as you're trying to make sense of it. And it's not happening to you, right? It's not like a direct form of PTSD that you have, but you do experience some trauma when you open up your imagination in that way.”
Heidi Blake is a writer for The New Yorker and the author of two books, From Russia with Blood: The Kremlin's Ruthless Assassination Program and Vladimir Putin's Secret War on the West and The Ugly Game: The Corruption of FIFA and the Qatari Plot to Buy the World Cup, with Jonathan Calvert. Her latest article is “The Fugitive Princess of Dubai.”
“I definitely feel as an investigative reporter that I feel very driven by my own capacity for shock and outrage and genuinely feeling like this is unbelievable. And that kind of makes me want to keep digging. And once I stop feeling that on any given topic, I lose interest. And so I’ve always been a generalist, and I just kind of rove from one topic to the next. I’m always finding myself in new territory where I know absolutely nothing about the thing I’m starting to dig into and have to try and play catch up and get my head around something new.”
Mitchell Prothero covers intelligence and crime for Vice News. His new podcast with Project Brazen is Gateway: Cocaine, Murder, and Dirty Money in Europe.
“I’m really interested in transnational networks—crime, intelligence. I’m fascinated by the gray. Like, when is something legal and when is something illegal? One thing with this Gateway project [was that] nobody could ever tell me that moment where money goes from absolutely being illegal to being legal.”
Brittany Luse is the host of NPR’s It’s Been a Minute.
“One of the things I love about this job is everything is practice. I love it. It's like if a show is great and everyone loves it, you gotta put on another one. You just gotta do it again. And if the show didn't quite do what you'd hoped or set out to do in your mind and in your heart, you gotta do another one. I just love it. You can never feel too good and you can never feel too bad.”
Brady Dale covers cryptocurrency for Axios. His new book is SBF: How The FTX Bankruptcy Unwound Crypto's Very Bad Good Guy.
“I am a fast writer. I’ve always been fast. I just sat down and did the math on it and I was like, If I can write 1,500 words a day, I can write this book. And I can do that.”
Lisa Belkin is a journalist and the author of four books. Her latest is Genealogy of a Murder: Four Generations, Three Families, One Fateful Night.
“I didn’t experience it as luck. It—and this is going to be a little woo woo—but it really felt like these people had been sitting there for 100 years saying, Well, it took you long enough, because everything just fit together. I didn’t have to manipulate anything.”
Amy Chozick is an author, journalist, executive producer, and showrunner. Her latest feature for The New York Times is ”Liz Holmes Wants You to Forget About Elizabeth.”
“The subject thought it was a hit job. Twitter thought it was a puff piece. I don’t know, guys. … I want to explain to people what it feels like to be around someone who you know you shouldn’t believe, but you can’t help believing them because this is what their personality is like when you’re with them.”