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 really have—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."

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._59_-_Nancy_Jo_Sales.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:50pm EST

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?'"

Thanks to TinyLetter and HuluPlus for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._58_-_Sarah_Stillman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:14pm EST

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.

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._57_-_Eli_Saslow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:44am EST

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."

Thanks to TinyLetter and Igloo Software for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._56_-_Joshuah_Bearman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34am EST

Amy Harmon, a Pulitzer Prize winner, covers 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."

Thanks to TinyLetter and Squarespace for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._55_-_Amy_Harmon.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40pm EST

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.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._54_-_Sean_Flynn.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:24am EST

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 is 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."

Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._53_-_Janet_Reitman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:23am EST

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."

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._52_-_Kelley_Benham.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:32pm EST

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."

Thanks to TinyLetter for sponsoring this week's episode.


Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._51_-_Robert_Kolker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:09am EST

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."

Show notes:

Direct download: Ep._50_-_Edith_Zimmerman.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:50am EST