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 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 says.
George Black is an environmental writer who has chronicled “civil war in Central America, the democracy movement in China, and climate change in countries from Bangladesh to Peru.” The link is to his archive in OnEarth.
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. She lives in The Netherlands.
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 medical thriller about the desperate attempt to surgically treat hundreds of thousands of psychiatric patients during the mid-20th century. His most recent, The Nazi and the Psychiatrist, is about the young U.S. Army psychiatrist who evaluates Nazi leader Hermann Göring.
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 longform journalism before it was popular.
Dan Ferber is 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.
Sean Flynn, a master of the long narrative, travels the world writing for GQ about topics ranging from the Norway massacre to the rescue of the Chilean miners to the battle over James Brown’s estate.
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.
Ted Genoways, a poet and author living in Nebraska, recently published The Chain: Farm, Factory, and the Fate of Our Food. He has written extensively about Big Ag and also published a book about Walt Whitman and the Civil War.
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.
Lisa Hamilton, a writer and photographer, focuses on agriculture and rural communities around the world. Her recent Harper’s story “The Quinoa Quarrel” examines the conflict between international food security and the intellectual property rights of indigenous people.
Brooke Jarvis has “walked on molten lava, crewed a square-rigged brigantine in the North Pacific, watched a whale give birth, and had tea with Margaret Thatcher.” She is the author of When We Are Called to Part, an Atavist story about the final days of a remote leprosy settlement.
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.
Mac McClelland has “reported in every region in the US, undercover in industry and sex work, and from international locations including Thailand, Haiti, Australia, Burma, Uganda, Turkey, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Bhutan.”
Maryn McKenna specializes in public health and food policy. “She has reported from a field hospital in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, a village on Thailand’s west coast that was erased by the Indian Ocean tsunami, a CDC team investigating the anthrax-letter attacks…and from quarantine stations, laboratories, sex clubs, and farms.”
Tracie M. McMillan reports on “food and class from farm fields, restaurant kitchens and supermarket aisles in The American Way of Eating.”
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.
Michelle Nijhius, who spent fifteen years living off the grid in Colorado, is a science reporter who specializes in long-form stories about conservation and global change.
Ken Otterbourg is the former managing editor of the Winston-Salem Journal. His current newspaper and magazine work covers topics “from complex medical and business issues to entangled family dramas.”
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.
Elizabeth Royte writes on “consumption, waste, food, water, energy and sometimes insects.”
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.
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, Wired.com, Salon.com, The Washington Post, New York, and O, the Oprah Magazine.
Kai Wright explores the politics of sex, race, and health. He 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 U.K.-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.
Gordon Young is the author of Teardown, a book about his efforts to buy a house in his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Phoebe Zerwick, who teaches journalism and writing at Wake Forest University, 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.
Longform journalists at news organizations
Burkhard Bilger, a staff writer at The New Yorker, is pretty much the best science writer I know, and a chronicler of all things Southern. Check out his 2002 anthology Noodling for Flatheads.
Sasha Chavkin is a reporter for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. His story “Mystery in the Fields” explored an epidemic of kidney disease that is killing agricultural workers from Central America to South Asia.
Pamela Colloff, executive editor of Texas Monthly has written extensively about flaws in the criminal-justice system, including wrongful convictions. Her two-part series “Innocence Lost” and “Innocence Found” help exonerate death row-inmate Anthony Graves.
Lane DeGregory, a staff writer at Tampa Bay Times, specializes in writing about people in the shadows. She won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for “The Girl In The Window,” her story about a feral child.
Amy Harmon, a staff writer at The New York Times, writes about the intersection of science and society. Some of her best-known articles are about genetic testing, GMOs and agriculture, and autism.
Will Hobson, a writer at the Tampa Bay Times, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2014 for exposing abusive landlords and squalid housing for the homeless.
Michael Kruse is soon to become a senior staff writer at Politico. He has written extensively about Southern culture and politics, including terrific profiles of the Avett Brothers and former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.
Matthew Shaer, a staff writer at Smithsonian, is the author of Among Righteous Men, a book about Hasidic vigilante squads in Brooklyn, and the longform Atavist story The Sinking of the Bounty.
Kevin Sieff has been telling rich stories from Afghanistan, and now from Sub-Saharan Africa, as a Washington Post foreign correspondent.
Great radio documentarians
John Biewen is the editor of Reality Radio and director of the audio program at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies. Check out his This American Life segment about the mass execution of 38 Dakota Indians in 1862.
Phillip Martin, the senior investigative reporter for radio station WGBH in Boston, has tackled complex issues like human trafficking from Boston to Bangkok.
Todd Melby and Diane Richard, partners based in Minneapolis, produce documentaries about tough subjects like sex offenders trying to reintegrate into their communities.
Favorite long-form journalism sites
Gangrey is published by Ben Montgomery of the Tampa Bay Times with the goal of “prolonging the slow death of newspapers.”
Nieman Storyboard, run by Harvard’s Nieman Foundation, promotes important conversation about narrative non-fiction, including “Why’s this so good?” dissections.