Maggie Haberman covers the White House for The New York Times.

“If I start thinking about it, then I’m not going to be able to just keep doing my job. I'm being as honest as I can — I try not to think about it. If you’re flying a plane and you think about the fact that if the plane blows up in midair you’re gonna die, do you feel like you can really focus as well? So, I’m not thinking about [the stakes]. This is just my job. This is what we do. Ask me another question.”

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Steven Levy covers technology for Wired, where he is the editor of Backchannel.

“It’s about people. Travis Kalanick’s foibles aren’t because he’s a technology executive. It’s because he’s Travis Kalanick. That’s the way he is. There is a certain strain in Silicon Valley, which rewards totally driven people, but that is humanity. And advanced technology is no guarantee—and as a matter of fact I don’t think it’ll do anything—from stopping ill-intentioned people from doing ill-intentioned things.”

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Mark Bowden is a journalist and the author of 13 books, including Black Hawk Down and his latest, Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam.

“My goal is never to condemn someone that I’m writing about. It’s always to understand them. And that, to me, is far more interesting than passing judgment on them. I want you to read about Che Thi Mung, an 18-year-old village girl, who was selling hats on corners in Hue in the daytime and going home and sharpening spikes to go into booby traps to try and kill American soldiers and ARVN soldiers in the evening. I want to understand why she would do that, why she would be so motivated to do that. And I think I did.”

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Brian Reed, a senior producer at This American Life, is the host of S-Town.

“It’s a story about the remarkableness of what could be called an unremarkable life.”

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Ginger Thompson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning senior reporter at ProPublica. Her most recent article is "How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico."

“How many times have I written the phrase ‘a town that was controlled by drug traffickers?' I had no idea what that really meant. What does it mean to live in a town that’s controlled by drug traffickers? And how does it get that way? One of the things I was hoping that we could do by having the people who actually lived through that explain it to us was that—to bring you close to that and say, ‘No, here’s what that means.’”

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Patricia Lockwood is a poet and essayist. Her new book is Priestdaddy: A Memoir.

“[Prose writing is] strange to me as a poet. I’m like, ‘Well I guess I’ll tell you just what happened then.’ But the humor has to be there as well. Because in my family household…the absurdity or the surrealism that we have is in reaction to the craziness of the household. So something like your underwear-clad father with his hand in a vat of pickles, sitting in a room full of $10,000 guitars and telling you that he can’t afford to send you to college—that’s bad. That’s a sad scene. But it’s also totally a lunatic scene. It’s, just the very fact of it, all these accoutrements, all the elements of the scene—they are funny.”

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John Grisham is the author of 38 books, including his latest novel, Camino Island.

A Time to Kill didn’t sell. It just didn’t sell. There was never any talk of going back for a second printing. No talk of paper back. No foreign deal. It was a flop. And I told my wife, I said, ‘Look, I’m gonna do it one more time. I’m gonna write one more book…hopefully something more commercial, more accessible, more popular. If this doesn’t work, forget this career. Forget this hobby. I’m just gonna be a lawyer and get on with it.’”

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Erin Lee Carr is a documentary filmmaker and writer. Her new film is Mommy Dead and Dearest.

“I feel like I’ve always had the story down—that’s not been really difficult for me. So the difficult thing, I think, for me, has always been access. Can I get the access? Can I withstand the pressure? You know, there’s been so many times where I wasn’t being paid to do the job, and I had to wait on the access. And it’s not for the faint of heart. You know, I could have spent a year and a half of my life doing [Mommy Dead and Dearest] and I could’ve not gotten the access to Gypsy, and it kind of would’ve been a wash.”

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Ariel Levy is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Rules Do Not Apply.

“I don’t believe in ‘would this’ and ‘would that.’ There’s no ‘everything happens for a reason.’ Everything happens, and then you just fucking deal. I mean we could play that game with everything, but time only moves in one direction. That’s a bad game. You shouldn’t play that game—you’ll break your own heart.”

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Jeffrey Gettleman is the East Africa Bureau Chief for the New York Times and the author of Love, Africa: A Memoir of Romance, War, and Survival.

“I’m not an adventure-seeking adrenaline junky. I like to explore new worlds, but I’m not one of these chain-smoking, hard-drinking, partying types that just wants thrills all the time. And unfortunately that’s an aspect of the job. And as I get older and I’ve been through more and more, the question gets louder. Which is: Why do you keep doing this? Because you feel like you only have so many points, and eventually the points are going to run out.”

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Rafe Bartholomew is the former features editor at Grantland and the author of Two and Two: McSorley’s, My Dad, and Me.

“I never saw it as something negative because [my dad] comes out, to me, at the end, extremely heroic. … He becomes this dad who I idolized as a bartender, a guy who would hang out with me and make me laugh, a guy I just adored almost every step of the way. I mean, of course, everybody gets into fights. But to me it was always so obvious that he had overcome the problems in his childhood, he’d overcome his own drinking problem, he’d done all these things, and by the time I was older, he’d even found a way to get back into writing and self-publish a couple of books of poems about the bar. So he’s sort of managed to tick off all those goals, just maybe not on the same schedule, maybe not in the most normal way.”

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Nick Bilton is a special correspondent for Vanity Fair and the author of American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road.

“I’ve been covering tech for a long, long time. And the thing I’ve always tried to do is cover the people of the tech culture, not the tech itself. … I've always been interested in the good and bad side of technology. A lot of times the problem in Silicon Valley is that people come up with a good idea that’s supposed to do a good thing—you know, to change the world and make it a better place. And it ends up inevitably having a recourse that they don’t imagine.”

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Samin Nosrat is a food writer, educator, and chef. Her new book is Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking.

“I kind of couldn’t exist as just a cook or a writer. I kind of need to be both. Because they fulfill these two totally different parts of myself and my brain. Cooking is really social, it’s very physical, and also you don’t have any time to become attached to your product. You hand it off and somebody eats it, and literally tomorrow it’s shit. … Whereas with writing, it’s the exact opposite. It’s super solitary. It’s super cerebral. And you have all the time in the world to get attached to your thing and freak out about it.”

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Sarah Menkedick is a freelance writer and the founder of Vela. Her upcoming book is Homing Instincts: Early Motherhood on a Midwestern Farm.

“I’d been rejected a ton of times—I had that 400-page thing that never became a book. So there were plenty of epic rejections that felt catastrophic. And I’d sort of arrived at this point where I was like: I’m living in my parents' cabin, and I’m pregnant, so whatever. Fuck it. I’m gonna write whatever I want to write.”

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David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. His new book is Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI.

“The more stories I reported over time, the more I just realized there are parts of the story I can’t always get to. You know, unless this is a reality show and there’s 18 cameras in every room, and people [talk] before they sleep, and maybe you have some mind-bug in their brain for their unconscious, there are just parts you’re just not gonna know. You get as close as you can. And so the struggle to me is to get as close as I can, to peel it back as close as I can, but understanding that there will be elements, there will be pieces, that will remain lingering doubts.”

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Alex Kotlowitz is a journalist whose work has appeared in print, radio, and film. He’s the author of three books, including There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America.

“The truth of the matter is, given what we do, we’re always outsiders. If it’s not by race or class, it’s by gender, religion, politics. It’s just the nature of being a nonfiction writer—going into communities that, at some level, feel unfamiliar. If you’re writing about stuff you already know about, where’s the joy in that? Where’s the sense of discovery? Why bother?”

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Brian Reed, a senior producer at This American Life, is the host of S-Town.

“It’s a story about the remarkableness of what could be called an unremarkable life.”

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Hrishikesh Hirway is the host of Song Exploder.

“I love the idea that somebody would listen to an episode [of Song Exploder] and then the feeling that they would have afterwards is, ‘Now I want to make something.’ That’s the best possible reaction. Whether it’s music or not, just that idea: ‘I want to make something.’ Because that is the thing that I love most, getting that feeling.”

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Sheelah Kolhatkar is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street.

“Suddenly the financial crisis happened and all this stuff that had been hidden from view came out into the open. It was like, ‘Oh, this was actually all kind of a big façade.’ And there was all this fraud and stealing and manipulation and corruption, and all these other things going on underneath the whole shiny rock star surface. And that really also demonstrated to people how connected business stories, or anything to do with money, are to everything else going on. I mean, really almost everything that happens in our world, if you trace it back to its source, it’s money at the root of it.”

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Al Baker is a crime reporter at The New York Times, where he writes the series “Murder in the 4-0.”

“When there’s a murder in a public housing high rise, there’s a body on the floor. Jessica White in a playground, on a hot summer night. Her children saw it. Her body fell by a bench by a slide. You look up and there’s hundreds of windows, representing potentially thousands of eyes, looking down on that like a fishbowl. …They’re seeing it through the window and they can see that there’s a scarcity of response. And then they measure that against the police shooting that happened in February when there were three helicopters in the air and spotlights shining down on them all night and hundreds of officers with heavy armor going door to door to door to find out who shot a police officer. They can see the difference between a civilian death and an officer death.”

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Caity Weaver is a staff writer at GQ.

“I always try to remember: you don’t have to tell people what you’re not good at. You don’t have to remind them of what you’re not doing well or what your weak points are. Don’t apologize for things immediately. Always give a little less information than they need. Don’t overshare.”

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Matthew Cole is an investigative reporter at The Intercept, where he recently published “The Crimes of Seal Team 6.”

“I’ve gotten very polite and very impolite versions of ‘go fuck yourself.’ I used to have a little sheet of paper where I wrote down those responses just as the vernacular that was given to me: ‘You’re a shitty reporter, and I don’t talk to shitty reporters.’ You know, I’ve had some very polite ones, [but] I’ve had people threaten me with their dogs. Some of it is absolutely cold.”

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Alexis C. Madrigal is an editor-at-large for Fusion, where he’s producing the upcoming podcast, Containers.

“Sometimes you think like, 'Man the media business is the worst. This is so hard.' When you spend time with all these other business people, you probably are going to say, ‘Capitalism is the worst. This is hard.’ Competition that’s linked to global things is so hard because global companies are locked in this incredible efficiency battle that just drives all of the slack out of the system. Like media, there’s no slack left, and I don’t know where things go after that.”

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Ana Marie Cox is the senior political correspondent for MTV News, conducts the “Talk” interviews in The New York Times Magazine, and founded Wonkette.

“When people are sending me hate mail or threats, one defense I have against that is ‘you don’t know me.’ You know? That wasn’t something I always was able to say. As I’ve become a stronger person, it’s been easier for me to be like, ‘The person they’re attacking, it’s not me.’”

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Brooke Gladstone is the host of On the Media.

“I’ve learned so much about how easy it is to redefine reality in this era of billions of filter bubbles. How easy it is to cast doubt on what is undeniably true. And I think that that’s what frightens me the most. I actually think that’s what frightens most people the most. How do we make sure that we all live in the same world? Or do we?”

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