Malcolm Burnley was a college student doing a class assignment when he stumbled across a true historical find: A lost audio tape of a Malcolm X speech from 1961. The discovery launched Burnley on a journalism career. Now a freelance journalist who has written for Politico, The Atlantic, and Philadelphia magazine, Burnley talks to Jason about how he broke into magazines (as a fact-checker), his childhood in Staten Island, and his encounters with Malcolm X admirers and historians.
Frank Rizzo was the larger-the-life mayor of Philadelphia from 1972 to 1980, a former cop who did not like journalists. Rizzo promised to bring law and order to the city but left a legacy of racism, poverty, population decline, and high taxes. In this episode, Jason talks to Philadelphia reporter Jake Blumgart about his article "Donald Trump is Frank Rizzo Reborn," about the uncanny parallels between the Philly mayor and the Donald.
How do you handle yourself as a reporter in a world where reporters are pretty widely hated and mistrusted? And how do you start in one genre of reporting and broaden into others? This week, Jason interviews Marin Cogan, contributing editor with New York magazine. Marin used to cover Capitol Hill for Politico and since then she has branched out to report on sports, crime, and justice for the likes of ESPN, GQ, and New York. In this conversation she talks about her wide-ranging career; covering the Tea Party revolution in 2010; debating the death penalty with the Benghazi Guy, Trey Gowdy; what it’s like to be a young woman reporter in Washington dealing with sexual harassment; tactics used by Senators to avoid reporters (hiding in elevators, the “cell-phone fake”); what it’s like to be screamed at by a member of Congress for reporting true facts; and how she finds and reports the complicated backstories of newspaper crime stories that go viral and then disappear. Marin also helps run a summer journalism boot camp at Princeton for low-income high school students who are academic stars at their schools, and she explains how tough it is to convince these kids to stay in journalism, and the surprising bravery of student reporters.
Mastering the book proposal: Jason has sold three nonfiction book proposals to major publishers, and in this episode he answers questions that writers tend to have. How do I outline a book that hasn't been fully reported? What if I've never written a book before? Should I even try to write a book proposal, or should I spend my time on other projects? Jason boils down what he has learned about a process that can seem intimidating.
Stephen Rodrick is an author and veteran journalist who has written for every prestigious magazine (The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, New York, Esquire, GQ) and met every celebrity twice (Lindsay Lohan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Walken, James Corden, J.J. Watt, Andre Braugher). From a Hampton Inn room in an undisclosed location, Rodrick tells stories about his amazing life in journalism -- the moments of despair and also the moments that keep him inspired.
How do you write a freelance story pitch that will grab the attention of an editor? In this episode Jason talks about pitching do's and don'ts with five leading editors: Dan Kois; culture editor at Slate; Cristina Daglas, deputy MLB editor at ESPN.com; Bill Wasik, deputy editor at The New York Times Magazine; Reyhan Harmanci, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura; and Theodore Ross, features director at The New Republic.
This week Jason talks to Elon Green, a freelancer in Long Island who has dug up remarkable stories at the New York Public Library and elsewhere: a scoop on the Zodiac Killer, a tale of Edgar Allan Poe's hair, and an unsolved string of murders from the '70s. Elon got his start in journalism as an advertorial writer at the New York Observer in its heyday -- a weekly paper run by a legendary editor, Peter Kaplan -- and he reminisces about Kaplan and his influence. Elon is also known for interviewing famous writers, including Tom Wolfe, Lillian Ross, and Gay Talese, and shares the best advice he ever received from these folks. At the beginning of the episode, Jason also gives some brief advice on how to pitch a freelance story to a magazine or site.
Freelancers with 6-figure incomes, word rates, and the wisdom of Goodfellas: On the opening episode of Kill Fee, Jason Fagone introduces himself and travels to the New Jersey home of author and freelance journalist Jen A. Miller, for a conversation about the practical side of making a living as a writer.