Sarah A. Topol is a writer-at-large for The New York Times Magazine. Her latest feature is ”Is Taiwan Next?”

”I think you never actually ask people head-on about what they've been through. You always ask people to just tell you what they want to tell you about anything that has happened to them…. This event that happened to you, it doesn't define you. It’s not why I'm here necessarily. Like, tell me about your childhood. Tell me about your life. Tell me about the things you think are important in your community. And by the time we get to the traumatic part, I hope they've seen enough of who I am and how I interview to feel comfortable telling me that they don't want to talk about certain things.”

Lawrence Wright is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker.

”There’s nothing more important about a person than their story. In a way, that’s who we are. And yet, memories fade and people die. So those stories disappear and the job of the journalist is to go out before that happens and accumulate the kinds of stories that are going to help us understand who we are, why we are, where we are right now in time, and try to thread those stories into a coherent narrative. In a way, you give it a kind of immortality. And that’s a big job. It’s a great privilege.”

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are documentary filmmakers. Their latest miniseries is Allen v. Farrow.

”We're constantly looking for those moments that happen before the story is ever told. Or those moments where someone is deciding to tell a story or is going through a process that they think is private. … We think there's something about getting the moment before the first moment that people normally see.”

Roger Bennett is a co-host of Men In Blazers and the author of (Re)born in the USA: An Englishman's Love Letter to His Chosen Home.

“So much of my work is about human tenacity. That value of perseverance, of driving onwards. I believe life is about darkness and happiness. I believe that nothing is given, you fight for everything. And how you operate in moments of doubt and darkness ultimately define you. So I talk a lot as a professional about tenacity. What I've never linked that to before was my own biography. What did surprise me when I read the book as not being about me, but just read it as a book, was how bloody tenacious I was in fleeting moments of real awfulness.”

Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang are reporters for the New York Times. They are coauthors of An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination.

“There are two types of reporters. There are reporters who date and reporters who marry. I think both Cecilia and I are reporters who marry our sources and by that I mean they are lifelong sources. It’s not a relationship that you build quickly. It’s one where you have to really let them get to know you as a journalist, show them that you are always going to be honest and do what you say and protect their anonymity and that you’re not biased. I think some reporters make mistakes in that they try to curry favor with sources by writing things they think the sources will like and I think sources actually respect you more when you show them: no I am accurate and I am honest and I am objective and I’m actually going to check what you tell me so that I know it’s true and you know I am doing my homework on everything.”

Julie K. Brown is an investigative reporter for the Miami Herald. Her new book is Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story.

“No reporter wants to be a part of the story. ... But the one thing I know is that the authorities weren't going to do anything about this unless it stayed in the news and there was pressure. And I thought the only way to do pressure was to continue to write stories and to be in their face by going on TV. So I took advantage of the fact that I am sort of a part of this story in the hope that it would pressure authorities to do something about it.”

Doree Shafrir is a co-host of podcast Forever35, the former executive editor of Buzzfeed, and the author of the new memoir Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer.

”Right now I can make my living from podcasting, but I don’t know what the advertising market for podcasts is going to look like in five years or even one year. The blog advertising market cratered. So one of the challenges of being my own ‘brand’ is that I always do have to think about, what is the next thing? Because in my experience in media, nothing is ever good for too long.”

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Jessica Bruder is a journalist and author of the book Nomadland.

“I don’t do a hard sell. I’ll tell people what my MO is, but I don’t push people to talk with me. I want to go deep with people. I want to be able to have the time to just sit with them and to say, ‘start at the beginning.’ Sometimes going chronologically will just take you to these places that wouldn’t have come up if I’ve just done a very guided interview. So I hung out. I’m not relentless. I don’t wear people down. But I stick around. If people just want me to fuck off, I fuck off, and I talk to other people..”

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Robert McKee is an author and screenwriting lecturer. His new book is Character: The Art of Role and Cast Design for Page, Stage, and Screen.

”When I'm in conversation with others, I'm always aware—or sensitive, at least—to what they're really thinking and feeling. And writers must have that. They can't possibly create excellent nonfiction or fiction if they're not aware of what is going on inside of other people, really, even subconsciously, while they go about saying whatever they do consciously in the world. Because if you just recorded the surface, if you were just paying attention to the surface, you'd be missing the whole show.”

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Aaron Lammer is a co-host of the Longform Podcast and the host of the podcast Exit Scam: The Death and Afterlife of Gerald Cotten.

“Something I got from a number of reporters that I’ve interviewed on the Longform Podcast is letting the story guide you, and ultimately that led me to an ambiguous ending. Early on, I was like, the pinnacle achievement is to solve this case. But ultimately, I felt like an ambiguous ending was the most honest to what I actually experienced in reporting it.”

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Megha Rajagopalan is a senior correspondent for Buzzfeed News. She won a Pulitzer for her coverage of the Xinjiang detention camps.

“It’s not so much that I talk to [the Chinese government] to get information. It’s more that I talk to them to see how they think about things and what’s important to them and what’s their view of the world. … There are so many journalists that have been thrown out of China, so there’s very few people that are able to actually have those conversations. And in the U.S., there are these seismic decisions being made about China policy, and if you don’t talk to the people that run the country, it’s a problem.”

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Barrett Swanson is a contributing editor at Harper’s and the author of Lost in Summerland.

“You just have to sit there for a long time. That lesson was indisputably crucial for me. Just being willing to talk to someone, even if the first half-hour or hour is unutterably boring, or it doesn’t seem pertinent. These little things, the deeper things, take a while to get at and they kind of burble to the surface at moments when you’re not totally expecting it to happen. So for me, it’s just making myself available for that moment to occur.”

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Dan Rather is a journalist, author, and the former anchor of CBS Evening News.

”I knew that being named to succeed Walter Cronkite would put me in a position of inhaling—every day—a kind of NASA-grade rocket fuel for the ego. And that could be dangerous…. In the end, when the red light goes on, it's just you. You're by yourself.… And the longer you're in that role, the more difficult it is to stay true to yourself and to remember who you are and who you want to be.”

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Katherine Eban is an investigative journalist and contributor to Vanity Fair. Her latest article is ”The Lab-Leak Theory: Inside the Fight to Uncover COVID-19’s Origins.”

”You can't make a correction unless you know why something happened. So imagine—if this is a lab leak—the earth shattering consequences for virology. For the science community, for how research is done, for how research is regulated. Or if it is a zoonotic origin, we have to know how our human incursion into wild spaces could be unleashing these viruses. Because COVID-19 is one thing, but we're going to be looking at COVID-25 and COVID-34. We have to know what caused this.”

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Rose Eveleth is the host of Flash Forward and the author of Flash Forward: An Illustrated Guide to Possible (and Not So Possible) Tomorrows.

“If I didn’t have that pretty bizarrely insatiable drive to do this stuff and understand things, I don’t know if I’d still be doing this. The curiosity index has to be high in order to make the rest of it worth it. Because otherwise, what’s the point?”

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Theo Padnos is a journalist and author of the book Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture, and Enlightenment.

“I'm trying to tell a story about a person who's attracted to dangerous places and people. I think we all have that within us. I wanted to bring my readers along. So I selected details that we all have in common... I'm trying to invite you along on a journey that you yourself might have taken.”

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Donovan X. Ramsey is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in GQ, WSJ Magazine, The Atlantic, and many other publications.

“I actually got into writing about criminal justice ... because I was curious about Black life. But that meant the only way I was able to do that was I had to kind of do this really often depressing slice of Black life. And there’s so much more. And there’s so much beauty in the lived experiences of Black people. … There are so many stories that just never get told about Black life. One, I have a connection to being a Black person, but then being a Black person who has the benefit of a really good education, and I’ve been given some shots here and there… it feels like a duty. If I’m not going to tell these stories, then who?”

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Adam McKay is a film director, writer, and host of the podcast Death at the Wing.

“Sometimes you do a project and then you look back and you’re like, Ah, shit. I let some of myself get in the way of that. It sucks, but it’s also a part of it. And there are so many times where you’re excited that the story did take off, the wind did catch the sail and it went off on its own. And that just feels so good that it far outweighs the times when you make a mistake, or let something go wrong, or too long, or hit the wrong tone. Which is going to happen. There’s no way around it. But those times when it all just catches perfectly—it’s just so exciting that you keep doing it.”

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Anna Sale is the host of Death, Sex & Money. Her new book is Let’s Talk About Hard Things.

“What hard conversations can do is—you can witness what's hard. You can be with what's hard. Admit what's hard. That can be its own relief. … Some hard conversations … are successful when they end in a place that's like, Oh, we're not going to agree on this. … I think you can get used to the feeling of feeling out of control and that makes them less scary.”

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Brooke Jarvis is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine.

“Obsession is inherently interesting. We want to know why somebody would care so much about something that it could direct their whole life. ... When people care about something a lot, what can be more interesting than that to understand what drives those powerful emotions? ... Part of why I do this work is that I am able to get temporarily obsessed with a lot of different things and then move on to the next thing that I'm temporarily obsessed with. ... There's always a new question that I want to follow.”

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Michael Grabell and Bernice Yeung are investigative reporters at ProPublica. They won the George Polk Award for Health Reporting for their coverage of the meatpacking industry's response to the pandemic, including their feature "The Battle for Waterloo."

This is final part of a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Roberto Ferdman is a correspondent at VICE News. He and his colleagues at VICE News Tonight won the George Polk Award for Television Reporting for their coverage of the killing of Breonna Taylor and the investigations that followed.

This is part four in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman are reporters at BuzzFeed News. Together they won this year's George Polk Award for Business Reporting for their coverage of Facebook's handling of disinformation on its platform. 

This is the second in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Tristan Ahtone is the former Indigenous Affairs editor at High Country News and is currently the editor-in-chief at The Texas Observer. His High Country News article “Land-Grab Universities,” co-authored with Robert Lee, won the 2021 George Polk Award for Education Reporting.

This is the first in a week-long series of conversations with winners of this year's George Polk Awards in Journalism.