David Giffels is a former newspaper reporter who wrote the book “The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt.”
Giffels, who grew up and has lived his entire life in Akron, Ohio, writes about the city’s despair and destruction as the rubber industry moved out, as well as Akron’s resurgence. He writes about bowling, rock n roll, thrift stores and sports in a smart and funny way.
Giffels was once a reporter and columnist at the Akron Beacon Journal. While at the Beacon Journal, he worked alongside Chuck Klosterman and Michael Weinreb.
Now Giffels is an assistant professor of English at the University of Akron. He’s also the author of “All the Way Home,” which won the Ohioana Book Award.
His writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Beacon Journal, Grantland, and many other publications.
Vanessa Grigoriadis writes for New York, Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone magazines, among other publications. Grigoriadis calls herself a generalist longform writer. She writes about hot topics in the world and does a lot of celebrity profiles, really good celebrity profiles that dig far beyond what a celebrity’s publicist often wants.
She won a National Magazine Award in profile writing for her profile on Karl Lagerfeld. Her New York Magazine story Gawker and the Rage of the Creative Underclass was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in feature writing.
She recently wrote a piece called Justin Bieber: A Case Study in Growing Up Cosseted and Feral. The story in many ways serves as a follow-up to the profile of Bieber that she wrote for Rolling Stone in 2011.
Baxter Holmes recently joined ESPN as its new Los Angeles Lakers reporter for ESPN.com. Holmes previously wrote for The Boston Globe, where he covered the Boston Celtics. Before that, he was a sports reporter for the Los Angeles Times. It was his first job after graduating from the University of Oklahoma in 2009.
Since visiting the podcast, Holmes wrote “The last true days of Kobe Bryant” for ESPN The Magazine, which was noted by Longform.
Holmes has won a slew of awards in just a short time as a professional sports writer. He has received Associated Press Sports Editors honors for explanatory reporting, projects reporting, beat reporting and breaking news. Additionally, he received first-place honors in the Game Story and Features categories of the Professional Basketball Writers Association 2013 Best Writing Contest.
A year ago, he profiled Celtics head coach Brad Stevens in a three-part series. In September, he profiled Celtics guard Marcus Smart. His last piece for the Boston Globe was a story about the time Bill Russell, KC Jones and other players from NCAA basketball champion University of San Francisco visited the inmates at Alcatraz.
Seth Wickersham is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He joined ESPN right after graduating from the University of Missouri. While he primarily covers the NFL, he has also covered the Athens Olympics, the World Series, the NCAA tournament and the NHL and NBA playoffs.
Since joining the podcast in 2014, Wickersham has gone on to write several noteworthy stories, including two stories he co-wrote with Don Van Natta Jr., “Spygate to Deflategate” and “The Wow Factor.” He has a profile on John Elway in the September 7, 2016 issue of ESPN: The Magazine that is getting great reviews.
When Matt Tullis talked with Wickersham, he had just started writing some wonderful longform literary journalism for ESPN. He wrote about a runner from Kenya who went to college in Alaska, but suffered his own private torment, something that changed his life forever. He wrote about legendary NFL coach Bill Walsh’s attempt to write a book that would teach everyone how to coach in the NFL. And he wrote about vets who have to put racehorses down after catastrophic injuries, a story that was anthologized in the book “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.”
In this episode, we talk with Wickersham about two stories in particular. In “Awakening the Giant,” Wickersham wrote about legendary quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who suffers from dementia. He also wrote the story “Out Route,” which chronicled Atlanta Falcon’s tight end Tony Gonzalez in the final season of his hall of fame career.
Earl Swift is the author of “Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream.” The book tells the life story of a 1957 Chevy that, at the beginning of the book, is falling apart.
Swift profiles the car’s thirteenth owner, Tommy Arney, who has led an extraordinary life, one that started with a brutal childhood, proceeded into a life of crime and ended up as a somewhat successful and controversial businessman. Arney sets out on a quest to restore the car to its former glory, and Swift is there for all of it. Through that narrative, Swift manages to also tell the stories of every single person who had ever owned the car. In the process, he captures America’s strange and abiding relationship with the automobile.
This is Swift’s fifth book. Since 2012, he’s been a residential fellow of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities at the University of Virginia. Before that, he was a newspaper reporter for the Virginian-Pilot, where he was nominated five times for a Pulitzer Prize.
Eli Saslow is a reporter at the Washington Post. Earlier this year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his series of stories on food stamps in a post-recession America.
Over the course of 2013, Saslow reported and wrote six extraordinary stories that focused on everything from a town in Rhode Island where one-third of the residents receive food stamps to a program that uses school buses to take lunches to kids in rural Tennessee during the summer.
When Matt Tullis talked with him, he was writing a series of stories on another hot-button issue – immigration.
Now he is writing about drug addiction in America. In July 2016, he wrote “How’s Amanda: A story of truth, lies and American addiction.”
Saslow was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing in 2013 for his story “Life of a Salesman.” That story looked at the suffering American economy through the eyes of a man who sells swimming pools. Last year, he wrote a heart-breaking story that focused on a family whose first-grade son was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting.
In 2008, Saslow covered the presidential campaign, and he’s also chronicled the president’s life inside the White House. As if his work at the Washington Post doesn’t keep him busy enough, Saslow also occasionally writes for ESPN: The Magazine, and has been included in Best American Sports Writing twice.
Walt Harrington is a former staff writer for the Washington Post Magazine. He’s now a journalism professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Harrington has written a number of award-winning books, including “The Everlasting Stream,” which was turned into an Emmy-winning PBS documentary.
His book “Intimate Journalism,” has been a staple of journalism writing classes for more than 15 years. Last year, he co-edited an anthology called “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.” He produced that book with Esquire writer Mike Sager, a former podcast guest. The book features 19 stories written by journalists who are all under the age of 40.
In May 2014, Harrington’s book “Acts of Creation: America’s Finest Hand Craftsmen at Work,” was published by The Sager Group. That book consists of 14 portraits of people who work with their hands, including a fireplace maker in Maine, a cabinet maker in Maryland and a locksmith in Ohio.
Since talking with Matt Tullis on the podcast, Harrington write another book: “Artful Journalism: Essays in the Craft and Magic of True Storytelling.”