Rachel Aviv is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

"If I'm writing about the criminal justice system, I wish I were a lawyer. If I'm writing about psychiatry, I wish I were a psychiatrist. I have often filled out half my application to get a Ph.D in clinical psychology. That is one area where I am constantly on the verge of jumping the fence. But even when I wrote about religion, I thought I wanted to be a priest."

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Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery are the co-editors of Mother Jones.

"We probably pay more attention to our fact-checking and our research than almost everybody in our industry. By the time we publish stuff, we make sure it's unimpeachable because people would like to impeach it."

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Evan Wright, a two-time National Magazine Award winner, is the author of Generation Kill.

"When people were killed, civilians especially, I realized I was the only person there who would write it down. I was frantic about getting names, and in the book there are a few Arabic names, some of the victims. Not that anyone cares. But I thought, 'At least somewhere there's a record of this.'"

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Andy Ward, a former editor at Esquire and GQ, is the editorial director of nonfiction at Random House.

"How you gain that trust is a hard thing to quantify. The way I try do it is by caring. If you don't care about every word and every sentence in the piece, writers pick up on that. ... Ultimately, it's their book or their magazine article. Their name is on it, not mine. I always try to keep that in mind."

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Elizabeth Wurtzel is the author of four books, including Prozac Nation.

"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."

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Gay Talese, who wrote for Esquire in the 1960s and currently contributes to The New Yorker, is the author of several books. His latest is A Writer's Life.

"I want to know how people did what they did. And I want to know how that compares with how I did what I did. That's my whole life. It's not really a life. It's a life of inquiry. It's a life of getting off your ass, knocking on a door, walking a few steps or a great distance to pursue a story. That's all it is: a life of boundless curiosity in which you indulge yourself and never miss an opportunity to talk to someone at length."

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Jon Ronson, a contributor to This American Life, The Guardian and GQ, is the author of six books, including The Men Who Stare at Goats. His latest is Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries.

"The older you get, you realize that no uncomfortable fact makes your story worse. Contradictions are great. What's bad, what to me is the worst journalistic sin, is ridiculous polemicism. ... To me, the contradictions, the story not turning out the way you want—you have to be a twig in the tidal wave of the story."

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Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His latest book is David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.

"The categories are in motion. You turn into a Goliath, then you topple because of your bigness. You fall to the bottom again. And Davids, after a while, are no longer Davids. Facebook is no longer an underdog—it's now everything it once despised. I am everything I once despised. When I was 25, I used to write these incredibly snotty, hostile articles attacking big-name, nonfiction journalists. Now I read them and I'm like, 'Oh my God, they're doing a me on me!'"

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Cord Jefferson is the West Coast editor at Gawker.

"I consider myself to be a sincere human being. And I think that the way the internet carries itself, the way the internet has dialogues, is often insincere. That concerns me. I don't ever want to lose my sincerity. I don't ever want to lose my ability to feel emotional about things that I write about. I don't ever want to have a distance from everything that I write. I think that can be a danger of writing too much for the internet, that you develop this elitist distance from everything. That nothing really matters, you know?"

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Hamilton Morris is the science editor for Vice and a contributor to Harper's.

"It's a shame that there isn't more of an interdisciplinary approach to a lot of scientific investigations, because often the result is that misinformation is produced. Again, there's misinformation in journalism and there's misinformation in science. And if you combine the best elements of both of those disciplines you can come a little bit closer to the truth. If you want to understand a drug phenomenon, you're going to need to look at it medically, chemically, anthropologically, you need to talk to people, you need to interview people, you need to look at the drug policy, the chemistry, the history—there's a lot of different factors that need to be examined in order to understand even the most simple, minute drug phenomenon. And if you're approaching something purely as a scientist, as an academic, there are huge limitations as to what you can do."

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Nancy Jo Sales writes for Vanity Fair and is the author of The Bling Ring.

"I'm a mom now, so my life's a little different. I can't do certain things that I used to do, and I won't, because they're dangerous or ridiculous or keep me out till five in the morning or whatever. But back in those days, I didn't even have a pet. This was everything I did. This was my whole life, this passion to find out these things, and do these things, and see these things, and have these adventures and be able to report about this street life that rarely gets talked about. I just didn't really have a lot of boundaries in those days. I don't think I had any, really. And if you really throw yourself into something, you can get a great story. You can also not have a life of your own."

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Sarah Stillman is a staff writer for The New Yorker.

"People don't really care about issues so much as they care about the stories and the characters that bring those issues to life. ... A story needs an engine or something to propel you forward and it can't just be a collection of like, 'Oh hmm, this was interesting over here and this was interesting over there.' Realizing that helped me sit down with all my stuff on trafficking and labor abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan and say 'What are the five craziest things that I found here and how could I weave them together in a way that would actually have some forward motion?'"

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Eli Saslow is a staff writer at the Washington Post and a contributor at ESPN the Magazine.

"It's not really my place to complain about it being hard for me to write. I wrote the story ("After Newtown Shooting, Mourning Parents Enter Into the Lonely Quiet") and I got to leave it. And even when I was writing the story, I was only experiencing what they were experiencing in a super fractional way. The hard part is that it was a story where there are no breaks, there's no—it is this relentless, sort of bottomless pain and I struggled with that. … A story can only have so many crushing moments, otherwise they just all wash out. But the other truth is: it is what it is. It's an impossibly heartbreaking situation. And making the story anything other than relentlessly heartbreaking would've been doing an injustice to what they're dealing with."

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Joshuah Bearman is the co-founder of Epic Magazine and a freelance writer. His latest story is "Coronado High."

"People who know me well will realize that parts of this story are actually about me. … It's about loss of innocence and getting to a certain point in your life where you realize the excitement of youth is over. Life at a certain point gets complicated and there are consequences and things get hard. These are people who dealt with those consequences in a way that I never did — they had to go to prison or destroy their friends lives — but that's what I liked about this story. It's a true crime story, but it became universal when I realized that there is this emotional experience that these characters go through that anybody can relate to."

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Amy Harmon, a Pulitzer Prize winner, covers the intersection of science and society for the New York Times.

"I'm not looking to expose science as problematic and I'm not looking to celebrate it. But it can be double edged. Genetic knowledge can certainly be double edged. Often the science outpaces where our culture is in terms of grappling with it, with the implications of it. Part of the reason for this widespread fear about GMOs is people don't understand what it is. I'm looking for an emotional way or a vehicle through which to get people to read about it. It's an excuse to talk about the science, not just explain it. … My contribution, what I can do, is try to tell a story that will engage people in the story and then they'll realize at the end that they learned a little bit about the science."

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Sean Flynn is a GQ correspondent and National Magazine Award winner.

"I find it satisfying to be able to give a voice to people that sort of get lost…You know, when these big horrible things happen, and the spotlight is very briefly on them, and then it moves away, and it's not that I'm dragging them out and forcing them to 'Relive your horrible moments!' It's more a thing of, 'If you'd like to relive your horrible moment, if you want people to know what actually happened, talk to me. I will tell your story.'"

Thanks to TinyLetter and the The Literary Reportage concentration at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week's episode.

For the first time, Janet Reitman discusses her Rolling Stone cover story on accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

"My editors, myself, a lot of people who work for the magazine — we lived through an act of terrorism. We know what it feels like. There have been accusations to me personally of being insensitive, and I can tell you that I'm far from insensitive, not only to the political realities of terrorism but to the personal realities of terrorism. I breathed it in, literally. … The cover elicited an emotional response from people; that is not always what magazine covers do. I think it's great on a certain level, because terrorism is emotional, it's real, it affects us. It is not something that happens just overseas or just to people who are somehow "Other." If you talk to terrorism experts around the world, what they will all say is that the vast majority of people who are involved in these violent, extremist acts are what we would consider otherwise to be very normal people. One of us. Part of our community. That's a reality, and it's a very emotional thing and it makes people very uncomfortable. I totally understand that. But that was the point of my story."

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Kelley Benham is a writer and editor at the Tampa Bay Times.

"People connect with this story in a really visceral kind of way, usually because of some experience they've had or someone close to them has had. I've had 90-year-old women crying into my phone about babies they lost 70 years ago. I've had people kind of sneak up to me and tell me about babies that have died that they don't talk about, but that they carry with them all the time. I've had premies who are grown up—those are my favorite—you know, "I'm 20 now and I have a scar just like Juniper's scar, and thank you for helping me understand who I am."

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Robert Kolker is the author of Lost Girls and a contributing editor at New York.

"For better or for worse, my heart's not in the mystery. I want [the killer] to be caught—he's obviously a predator and he's unstable. But they all are. They're all messed up people who victimize other people and they all look normal. The art and science of catching serial killers has become more than slightly overblown in our society. And you know, I love Silence of the Lambs … but I'm not entirely sure that our obsession with who the serial killer is and why a serial killer does it is in proportion with how interesting they end up being."

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Edith Zimmerman is the founding editor of The Hairpin and a contributing writer to The New York Times Magazine.

"I never wrote anything myself or ran anything from other people that was needlessly negative. It wasn't some false grin plastered all over it — we addressed dark things too, and poked fun at things. But I didn't want there to ever be a tone of yeah, let's really just deflate this. Because ultimately you're just stabbing at a ghost among friends. And then at the end you've all just fallen on the floor and the ghost is gone. You're not really doing anything constructive."

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Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and the author of The Skies Belong to Us.

"It was this big review in The New York Times and I was terrified that it was going to say something awful about the book or about me as a writer. And my son said to me — he's 5, I should say — "If it's bad, you won't die." That's a good point, you know? So I always think of that when I pick up a new review and take that risk of someone slamming something that I've genuinely poured my heart and soul into. You'll live to fight another day."

Thanks to TinyLetter and the The Literary Reportage concentration at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week's episode.

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Evan Ratliff, a co-host of the Longform Podcast, discusses "The Oilman's Daughter," his new story in The Atavist.

"This woman was given the opportunity to take on a new identity. And it was a mistake. She never should've done it. If there was a way for her to go back and say, 'No, I don't want to know this. I want to be who I am,' then I think she should've taken that. … I'm fascinated with people who want to radically shift their identity. It almost never works out well."

Steve Kandell is the longform editor at BuzzFeed.

"What would be the sort of longer, narrative nonfiction, journalistic equivalent of something that would have the same effect on you as a bunch of cat GIFs? And not because it's cute, but it's the kind of thing that makes you go, 'OK, I need a lot of other people to see this.'"

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Nicholas Schmidle is a staff writer at The New Yorker.

"I was in a taxi, leaving Karachi to go attend this festival, and we started getting these very disturbing phone calls from newspaper reporters that didn't exist, all of them asking me to meet them at various places in Karachi. I had read enough about the Daniel Pearl case to know what happened in the days leading up, and this was very similar. ... We kept driving towards the festival, and shortly after that, friends started calling. They were watching local television, and it was being reported that 'Nicholas Shamble,' editor of Smithsonian Magazine, had been kidnapped. And I was like, 'All right, I get the hint.'"

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Chris Heath, winner of the 2013 National Magazine Award for Reporting, is a staff writer at GQ.

"I present myself as someone who is going to be rigorous and honest. And if you can engage in the way I'm asking you to engage, then I hope that you will recognize yourself in a more truthful way in this story than you usually do. And maybe even, with a bit of luck, more than you ever have before. That's what I bring. That's my offer."

Thanks to TinyLetter and the The Literary Reportage concentration at NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute for sponsoring this week's episode.

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