Outstanding freelance journalists 

Cynthia Barnes has chronicled her adventures with marriage-minded nomads and bad-tempered bulls in Mali and swapped fashion tips with elephant-polo-playing transsexuals in Thailand. She has reported from Bangkok, Baghdad, and Boulder, Colorado.

Elif Batuman is the writer-in-residence at Koç University in Istanbul and the author of The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. Writing for The New Yorker, she has covered subjects ranging from Russian ice palaces to Besiktas fan culture.

Vince Beiser specializes in criminal justice, but also tackles difficult stories like sex and AIDS in the Orthodox Jewish community. He has exposed conditions in California’s harshest prisons, trained with troops bound for Iraq, and ridden with the first responders to Haiti’s earthquake.

Joshua Berman is a travel writer and Moon Travel Guide author who specializes in Central America, especially Nicaragua and Belize. He is also a Spanish teacher and Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. “I hit the pinnacle of my career when I ate raw testicles on the Travel Channel,” he notes.

Brendan Borrell once studied frogs, snakes, and insects in Panama and Costa Rica. Now he reports from around the world on science, business, crime, and natural resources. His work has been funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Diane Daniel writes about the environment, travel, artisans, and activists. In the travel realm, she advocates for what she calls preservation travel, which  that preserves cultures and community, history, buildings, and the environment.

Dave Denison, founding editor of CommonWealth magazine, writes about “the creaky mechanics of modern democracy,” along with religion, constitutional law, and public opinion. His recent projects include a profile of actor-director James Franco and a dispatch from a bowling camp in Fishkill, New York.

David Dobbs is the author of Reef Madness, which looks at a long argument that Charles Darwin had about how coral reefs form. He also wrote the No. 1 Kindle-Single bestseller My Mother’s Lover. He is currently writing a book called The Orchid and the Dandelion, about the genetics of temperament.

Jack El-Hai has won kudos for The Lobotomist, a biography and medical thriller that takes readers into one of the darkest chapters of American medicine—the desperate attempt to surgically treat hundreds of thousands of psychiatric patients during the mid-20th century.

Helen Epstein has written five books of literary non-fiction, including Children of the Holocaust and the biography Joe Papp: An American Life. When I was an undergraduate at NYU, she was my most influential professor, introducing me to long-form journalism before it was popular.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely is an investigative journalist who has written about a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde; the life lessons she learned from a con man; and the disturbing case of a serial date-rapist, whose trial revealed shocking truths about the criminal-justice system.

Dan Ferber the co-author of the book Changing Planet, Changing Health. He has also “roamed a Nebraska farm town to find elusive growers of pharmaceutical crops; crawled through caves with a biologist searching for new species; [and] witnessed the first-ever human-robot arm-wrestling match.

Michael Fitzgerald writes primarily about technology and business trends. He’s played speed chess against an 11-year old champion, interviewed Bill Gates at an armadillo race, and been the first person to rent a hydrogen-powered car.

David France is the author of Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal, and producer of How To Survive A Plague, a documentary film about AIDS activism. He has been a seminal influence on my career.

Jonathan Green has reported from Sudan on jihadist militias, the guerilla-controlled jungles of Colombia on the cocaine trade, corruption in oil-rich Kazakhstan, the destruction of the rainforest in Borneo and human rights abuses connected to gold mining in West Africa. He is the author of Murder in the High Himalaya. 

Brendan Koerner is the author of Now The Hell Will Start, the true story of an American GI who blew away his commanding officer and then fled into the Indo-Burmese jungle. More recently he wrote The Skies Belong to Us, an epic tale from the golden age of skyjacking.

Janine Latus is the author of If I Am Missing Or Dead, about her sister’s murder by a lover. She explores how two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women ended up in abusive relationships. She is a spokeswoman for Amy’s Courage Fund, which helps fund women to get out of abusive relationships.

Robin Mejia is a journalist with a background in biology. She has written about how science and technology are changing the way we live. She wrote and produced Reasonable Doubt, an award-winning CNN documentary about wrongful convictions based on crime-lab problems.

Debbie Nathan writes about immigration, the U.S.-Mexico border, sexual politics and sex panics, particularly in relation to women and children. Her latest book is Sybil Exposed: The Extraordinary Story Behind the Famous Multiple Personality Case.

Adam Penenberg garnered national attention in 1998 for unmasking serial fabricator Stephen Glass of The New Republic. His story is portrayed in the film Shattered Glass. His book Tragic Indifference recounts the biggest product-liability case in history, the Ford-Firestone fiasco. He teaches at NYU.

Todd Pitock has reported from several dozen countries, including Iraq, Libya, Morocco, and Niger. He has interviewed Nelson Mandela and street gang members in prison. He has also ruminated on the challenges of coaching little league and the myriad agonies of golf.

Sue Russell wrote the 2002 biography Lethal Intent, the inside story of serial killer Aileen Wuornos, who shot seven men to death in Florida and was executed in 2002. She has written about mental health issues affecting criminals and law-enforcement personnel, forensic science, fire investigations, and wildfires.

Matthew Shaer, a former Christian Science Monitor staff writer, is the author of Among Righteous Men, a book about Hasidic vigilante squads in Brooklyn. He writes often for New York and Harper’s.

Rebecca Skloot is the author of the bestselling book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan.

Steve Weinberg is the former executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He now plays a significant role in ramping up the Midwestern Innocence Project. He has written several journalism books, a biography of Armand Hammer, and a dual biography of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller.

Paige Williams teaches narrative nonfiction at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Financial Times, GQ, Men’s Journal, Playboy,,, The Washington Post, New York, and O, the Oprah Magazine.

Kai Wright explores the politics of sex, race, and healthHe is the author of Drifting Toward Love: Black, Brown, Gay and Coming of Age on the Streets of New York, as well as two books of African-American history.

Ed Yong is a widely published UK-based science writer and creator of the blog Not Exactly Rocket Science. He is an active part of the scientific community on social media, and he speaks regularly about science journalism and blogging. 

Phoebe Zerwick, my fellow North Carolinian, is best known for her articles leading to the exoneration of accused murderer Darryl Hunt. She writes about criminal justice, health care, economics, race, and “the ways in which economic flux affects communities.”

Carl Zimmer writes books and articles about science. His books include Soul Made Flesh, a history of neuroscience, and Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. He’s a frequent contributor to RadioLab and This American Life, and a popular blogger.

Long-form journalism sites

Byliner “publishes original narratives by some of the most accomplished writers working today, at lengths that allow them to be read in a single sitting.” It also curates stories published elsewhere.

Gangrey is published by Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times with the goal of “prolonging the slow death of newspapers.”

Longreads and Longform both post new links to magazine and other stories on an almost-daily basis.

Nieman Storyboard, run by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, promotes important conversation about narrative non-fiction, including “Why’s this so good?” dissections.