Episode 12: John Woodrow Cox

When John Woodrow Cox talked with Matt Tullis on the podcast, he was working at the Tampa Bay Times and writing short narratives. Since then, Cox joined the Washington Post, where he is an enterprise reporter who has written about a flawed sexual assault investigation in the Marines and about a 10-year-old who has HIV.

At the Times, Cox was a general assignment reporter in Pinellas County. He covered breaking news and led long-term investigations into frivolous government spending, military contract fraud and Florida’s prescription pill epidemic. He also wrote feature stories, including the “Dispatches from Next Door” series for the Floridian magazine. These stories are very short — just 500 words long — but painstakingly reported. They tell a full story in a very short amount of space.

We talked with him about two such stories, one about a woman who is only able to find peace on the ocean. The other is about a senior citizen always on the look for that special young woman who will save him from loneliness. We also talked about writing cops and crime stories and how it can help form a narrative sense.

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Episode 11: Wright Thompson

Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. Thompson is widely regarded as one of the top literary sports journalists in the country. His work has been featured in seven editions of “Best American Sports Writing.” This year, his story “Urban Meyer will be home for dinner,” was included in the anthology.

2013 was an epic year for Thompson, who reported and wrote several memorable stories, including a profile of Michael Jordan as he turned 50 years old, a story about Italy’s racist soccer thugs, a story about a paralyzed fly rod maker in Montana and a profile of legendary wrestling coach Dan Gable in the wake of the International Olympic Committee cutting that sport.

Since joining the podcast in October 2013, Thompson has written an incredibly in-depth piece on Tiger Woods as well as a piece on New Orleans on the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. That piece took up the entire feature well in one issue of ESPN: The Magazine.

Thompson also took part in the Gangrey podcast episode that focused on the work of Michael Brick, and the book “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name.” 

In this podcast, we talk about the Gable story, which Thompson says he wouldn’t change a thing about, and the Jordan story. Both are intimate profiles of people you wouldn’t think would ever open up to anyone, let alone a reporter.

Episode 10: Janet Reitman

Janet Reitman is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and is the author of Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion.

In July 2013, she wrote the story “Jahar’s World” for Rolling Stone. The story dug deep into the life of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving brother accused of the Boston Marathon bombing. That issue created a huge controversy when the magazine decided to put Tsarnaev on the cover.

Reitman’s most recent story for Rolling Stone was a Q&A with Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who was elected to the senate just one month before the Sandy Hook shooting.

Reitman has written about a wide range of topics, including the church of Scientology. She was nominated for a National Magazine Award for that story. She’s also covered the war in Iraq and written about Anonymous hactivists, among many other things.

In addition to Rolling Stone, her work has appeared in GQ, Men’s Journal, The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, ESPN The Magazine and Salon. For links to many of Reitman’s stories, check out her Byliner page.

Episode 9: Jason Fagone

Jason Fagone, a Philadelphia-based journalist who writes about science, sports and culture for Wired magazine and Philadelphia magazine. Fagone’s work has also appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, Slate and Deadspin.

Fagone’s most recent story — “Has Carl June Found a Key to Fighting Cancer?” — is about a cancer researcher who has found a way to treat leukemia using genetically modified T-cells. Since joining the podcast, he has written the book “Ingenious: A True Story of Invention, Automotive Daring and the Race to Revive America,” which follows the lives of several people as they attempt to engineer a radically new kind of car.

Fagone has since started his own podcast, which focuses on the ins and outs of freelancing. The podcast is called Kill Fee.

Episode 8: Luke Dittrich

Luke Dittrich has been writing for Esquire for about six years. In that time, he’s written about a man who lived most of his life with no memory (a man who was also treated by Dittrich’s grandfather), the Penn State scandal and the Joplin, Missouri, tornado that killed 160 people. That last story won Dittrich a National Magazine Award in 2012.

Most recently, he wrote the story “The Prophet.” The story is about neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander, who claims to have visited heaven in a best-selling book. Dittrich’s piece pretty much debunks those claims. 

In this podcast, we talk about many of his stories, as well as how he got started reporting and who gave him the idea for the Joplin tornado story.

Since joining the podcast, Dittrich turned his story about Patient HM, the man with no memory, into a book by that same name.

Episode 7: Brian Mockenhaupt

Brian Mockenhaupt wrote the Byliner.com original “The Living and the Dead.” The story chronicles the traumatic experience of a group of Marines in Afghanistan, as well as their difficulty adjusting to life once stateside. He won the 2013 Michael Kelly Award for the story, and was also a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing.

Mockenhaupt is a contributing editor to Readers Digest and Esquire, and is the nonfiction editor of the Journal of Military Experience. He writes regularly for The Atlantic and Outside, and his work has also appeared in Pacific Standard, Backpacker, The New York Times Magazine and Chicago.

After serving two tours in Iraq as an infantryman with the 10th Mountain Division, Mockenhaupt has written exclusively on military and veteran affairs.

He was the first in-studio guest for the podcast, as he was visiting Ashland University for the River Teeth Nonfiction Conference.

Episode 6: Jesse Lichtenstein

Jesse Lichtenstein wrote the story, “Do we really want to live without the post office” for the February issue of Esquire. The piece examines the controversy surrounding the future of the postal service, and what life without it would be like. Lichtenstein also makes the argument that the postal service binds the country together in a way little else can.

This is Lichtenstein’s first piece in Esquire, but he has written for numerous other publications, including Slate and The New York Times Magazine. He also worked as a fact checker for The New Yorker.