Jiayang Fan is a staff writer for The New Yorker. Her latest article is a "How My Mother and I Became Chinese Propaganda."

"I think considering the unusual shape of our lives—the lives of my mother and I—from bare subsistence to one of the richest enclaves in America … it made me think about what the value of existence is. ... It made me wonder, What should a person be? And how should a person be? And being a writer has been a lifelong quest to answer those questions."

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Claudia Rankine is a poet, essayist, and playwright. She is the author of the new book, Just Us: An American Conversation.

“I began to wonder, why am I maintaining civility around things that are actually very important to me? This might be the only chance I get to stand up for myself. As Claudia. As a Black person. As a Black woman. As an American citizen. So what am I waiting for? What am I preserving when the thing I am supposedly preserving is also the thing that is on some level killing me?”

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is an author and journalist. He served as guest editor for the September issue of Vanity Fair, titled "The Great Fire."

“There’s this pressure to say something. Say something. The world’s burning, say something. But I try to stay where I’ve been or where I’ve tried to be in my career. ... Good things take time. You gotta let things cook. You can’t insta-bake something like this.”

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Baynard Woods and Brandon Soderberg are the co-authors of the new book I Got A Monster: The Rise and Fall of America's Most Corrupt Police Squad.

“We really wanted to create some kind of leftist, anti-racist true crime story that we really haven’t seen. The conventions of the thriller often smuggle in all of this really right-wing, pro-police propaganda that all of our cops were raised on—the story of cops having to crash cars and break rules in order to get the bad guys. We wanted to take that and subvert it, using its methods to blow it up from the inside while also being rigorously reported.”

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Andrea Valdez is the editor-in-chief of The 19th*.

“You know how sometimes you hear a song and you think, Gosh, it feels like that song has always existed and an artist just plucked it out of the air and played it and now it’s a part of our musical canon? I really hope that The 19th* is a news organization where it feels like it has always been, should have always been, and will always be there.”

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Jason Parham is a senior writer at Wired.

“I think of myself some days as a critic. Some days I think of myself as a journalist. But I essentially mostly think of myself as an essayist, somebody who is trying to bridge those two traditions. My approach to writing now is kind of simple…I’m always writing about things I like and want to hear about.”

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Jenny Kleeman is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of the new book Sex Robots and Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death.

“It’s better to cover one thing in a really illuminating way than to try and explore every single aspect of a topic in a really superficial way. So if there’s one thing that particularly interests you or fascinates you, if there’s just one question you want to ask, do as much research as you can on that one question and you’ll end up with a much more illuminating interview than something that is a precis of their entire field. Because anyone can do that.”

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Seyward Darby is the editor-in-chief of The Atavist Magazine and the author of Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.

“The most enlightening thing I learned in working on this book ultimately was that when we think of hate we think of animosity. Hate means I do not like someone or I do not like something. I deplore it. I despise it. But hate as a movement is actually a lot more like any social movement where it’s providing something to its supporters, members, acolytes that they were seeking but didn’t necessarily know where they were going to find it. So it could be camaraderie, it could be power, it could be purpose, in some cases it could be money. There’s something terrifyingly mundane about that.”

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Raquel Willis, the former executive editor of Out, is an activist, journalist, and writer.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter.

“To my peers, I would just say that we have to rethink our idea of leadership. Rethink our idea of storytelling. As the media, we shouldn’t be seeing ourselves as the owners and the gatekeepers of people’s stories. We actually need to be democratizing this experience—sharing the tools of storytelling with other folks. Folks are hungry to tell their own stories and may not always have the tools.”

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Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman are co-hosts of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend and co-authors of the new book Big Friendship: How We Keep Each Other Close.

“People telling you about their lives is a real privilege and honor. No one owes you to tell you their story. Sometimes in the world of people who write or people who make media there is just this expectation that everything is on the table, especially if you’re two women who make media, that we’re supposed to just share our pain and everything that’s going on in our lives but that’s not fair and it’s not true and I think the larger project of this book is really sharing these stories in service of having an honest dialogue about how other people are doing friendship.”

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Maria Konnikova is a journalist, professional poker player, and author of the new book The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win.

“I do think that writing and psychology are so closely interlinked. The connections between the human mind and writing are in some ways the same thing. If you’re a good writer, you have to be a good, intuitive psychologist. You have to understand people, observe them, and really figure out what makes them tick.”

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Tessie Castillo, a journalist covering criminal justice reform, and George Wilkerson, a prisoner on death row in North Carolina, are two of the co-authors of Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row.

“I want other people to see what I see, which is that the men on death row are human beings. They’re incredibly intelligent and insightful and they have so many redemptive qualities...I don’t think I could really convey that as well as if they get their own voice out there. So I wanted this book to be a platform for them and for their voices.” –Tessie Castillo

“For me, writing was like a form of conversation with myself or with my past, like therapy. So I just chose these periods in my life that I didn’t really understand and that were really powerful and impactful to me, and I just sat down and started writing to understand them and make peace with them.” –George Wilkerson

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Dean Baquet is executive editor of The New York Times.

"I always tried to question what is the difference between what is truly tradition and core, and what is merely habit. A lot of stuff we think are core, are just habits. The way we write newspaper stories, that’s not core, that’s habit. I think that’s the most important part about leading a place that’s going through dramatic change and even generational change. You’ve got to say, here’s what’s not going to change. This is core. This is who we are. Everything else is sort of up for grabs."

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Jacqueline Charles is the Caribbean correspondent at the Miami Herald.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter.

"There are things that you see that if you start taking it in, you’re never going to stop and you’re not going to be able to do your job…I have family in all of these countries and when disaster strikes, you can’t help everyone. But what you hope is that with your pen, with your voice, with your recording of history…somebody somewhere will feel compelled to do something. So that’s what keeps me going."

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Kierna Mayo is the showrunner and head writer for the Lena Horne Prize for Artists Creating Social Impact. She is the former editor-in-chief of EBONY and Honey Magazine, which she co-founded at age 27.

Guest host Patrice Peck is a freelance journalist and writes the Coronavirus News for Black Folks newsletter. Her most recent article is "Black Journalists Are Exhausted," an op-ed published in The New York Times.

“Advocacy is not a bad word. Telling the truth about a particular slice of life is what my career has been. That slice of life started about young people who were partaking in hip hop culture. Most of them were of color, most of them were poor. So that was a perspective. If you begin to tell the stories of those people at that time, that begins to have an advocacy feel and taste and touch. Not even with a consciousness to it. Because this is a lost voice. This is a lost point of view. It is not in the mainstream. It is not being centered. No one is telling it. So the mere act of shedding light journalistically in places where there has been no light before is advocacy. Sorry, journalists. Sorry, all you impartial, fair-and-balanced folks.”

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Wesley Lowery is a correspondent for “60 in 6” from 60 Minutes. He is the author of They Can't Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America's Racial Justice Movement and won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for "Fatal Force," a Washington Post project covering fatal shootings by police officers.

“The police are not, in and of themselves, objective observers of things. They are political and government entities who are the literal characters in the story. They are describing the actions of people who are protesting them. They have incentives.”

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Philip Montgomery is a photojournalist.

“The photographers that I grew up on all sort of had their moment… I sort of had, in this weird way, this feeling of envy that they had their moment with this story that was all-encompassing. Looking at it now, this is the story of my time, and it’s a little more than I perhaps bargained for.”

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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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