Episode 67: Ben Montgomery

Ben Montgomery is the author of “The Man Who Walked Backward: An American Dreamer’s Search For Meaning in the Great Depression.” The book was published by Little, Brown Spark in September, and tells the story of a man named Plennie Wingo, who in 1931, attempted to walk around the world, backward.

This is the third time Montgomery has been on the podcast. He was the guest on Episode 21, when he talked about his first book, “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail.” That book went on to become a New York Times Bestseller.

He was also one of five guests on Episode 45, which was focused on the work of the late Michael Brick, which was contained in the book, “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name.” The other guests on that show were Wright Thompson, Michael Kruse, Tony Rehagen, and Thomas Lake.

Montgomery created the website gangrey.com, which was the namesake for this podcast. For years, he was one of the top enterprise reporters at the Tampa Bay Times, where he wrote about everything from one of the last spectacle lynchings in Florida to why cops shoot at suspects.

He left the Tampa Bay Times in October 2017 to focus on writing “The Man Who Walked Backward.” Now, he finds himself teaching student journalists at the University of Montana as the T. Anthony Pollner Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Montgomery’s latest book is his third. His second book was titled “The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II.”

He was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting in 2010 for his series of stories on the decades of abuse at a Florida reform school for boys. He won the Dart Award and Casey Medal for the same series.

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Janet Reitman (2013)

On this episode, we’re rebroadcasting an interview that Matt Tullis did with Janet Reitman in October 2013. During this episode, Tullis and Reitman talked about her story, “Jahar’s World,” which ran in the Rolling Stone. The story was about Jahar Tsarnaev, one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Rolling Stone was criticized at the time because they put a glossy photo of Tsarnaev on the cover. But journalistically, the story that Reitman wrote was lauded as an excellent piece of reporting and writing, including by the New York Times’ David Carr.

Reitman is being lauded again because of a piece she reported and wrote for the New York Times Magazine. The story, “U.S. Law Enforcement Failed to See the Threat of White Nationalism. Now They Don’t Know How to Stop It.” was published in early November.

A few days after the story was published, Terry Gross interviewed Reitman for Fresh Air on National Public Radio.

Reitman is a contributing writer for the New York Times, and a contributing editor for Rolling Stone. She is also the author of the book, “Inside Scientology: The Story of America’s Most Secretive Religion.”

Episode 61: Brantley Hargrove

Brantley Hargrove is the author of “The Man Who Caught The Storm: The Life of Legendary Tornado Chaser Tim Samaras,” which was published by Simon & Schuster in April. The book is about a legendary storm chaser who, despite never going to college, was a hugely successful engineer who also managed to record the first meteorological data from inside a massive tornado.

The book has gotten rave reviews. Hampton Sides, the author of “In the Kingdom of Ice,” said that “The Man Who Caught the Storm” is “a thrilling tale of Promethean defiance.” The Washington Post said that Hargrove is “one of today’s best science writers” who “takes the reader not only on a journey through the remarkable life of engineer-explorer Samaras, but also through the beautifully desolate roads of the Plains while on the chase.”

Hargrove has written for Wired, Popular Mechanics, and Texas Monthly, among other publications. He’s gone inside the effort to reverse-engineer super tornadoes using super computers. He’s chased violent storms from the Great Plains to the Texas Coast. But he’s also done more than just write about devastating storms. He has also explored the world of South American jewel thieves who terrorize diamond dealers in South Florida.

Episode 60: Terrence McCoy

Terrence McCoy covers poverty, inequality and social justice in urban and rural America for the Washington Post.

In February, he wrote the story “I don’t know how you got this way.” That piece is about how a young neo-Nazi has revealed himself to his family, and how his mother and grandmother are left wondering if they will ever get him back.

He served in the United States Peace Corps in Cambodia, an experience that ultimately led to “The Playground,” a Kindle single available on Amazon. That book was named by the Washington Post as one of the best nonfiction books of 2013.

His story “Today, Her Whole Life Is a Free Skate” was included in Best American Sports Writing 2017.

One of his recent stories was about a family whose 6-year-old daughter was killed by the flu. A year ago, McCoy wrote a series about people who were dying while waiting to be approved for disability assistance, something that has already sparked some change in Washington, D.C.

Episode 58: Leonora LaPeter Anton

Leonora LaPeter Anton is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the Tampa Bay Times’ enterprise team. In January, the Times published her story, “Gang raped at 17. Therapy at 65.”

The story follows the attempt of Evelyn Robinson to cope with a horrific rape, 48 years after it happened.

LaPeter Anton has been at the Tampa Bay Times since 2000. She won a Pulitzer for her work in an investigation into the failing mental hospitals in the state of Florida.

She also contributes to the newspaper’s occasional series, Encounters, which are short narratives about people living ordinary lives in south Florida. Her most recent Encounter focused on a woman applying for a job at Subway.

LaPeter Anton grew up in Connecticut and Greece, and studied journalism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Episode 45: Michael Brick

This episode is devoted to the life, stories and music of Michael Brick. Brick wrote for the New York Times, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, Harper’s Magazine. He also wrote the book “Saving the School.”

Brick passed away in February from colon cancer. In Brick’s final days, his friends and fellow reporters scrambled to put together a book that contains so many of his amazing stories. That book, “Everyone Leaves Behind a Name,” was published by The Sager Group and is now available. All book proceeds go to Brick’s family. Everyone Leaves Behind a Name

In this episode, I’m going to talk with some of men who put that book together. On the show we’ve got Ben Montgomery, a senior writer at the Tampa Bay Times, Michael Kruse, a senior staff writer for Politico, Wright Thompson, a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine, Thomas Lake, who covers politics for CNN Ditital, and Tony Rehagen, a freelance writer living in Atlanta.

For Montgomery, Kruse and Thompson, this is their second visit to the podcast.

During the podcast, we listen to one of Brick’s songs. You can listen to that song here.

The book can be purchased at Amazon.com or at The Sager Group’s website.

Episode 34: Mike Wilson

Mike Wilson, Editor of The Dallas Morning News, photographed February 16, 2015. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)
Mike Wilson, Editor of The Dallas Morning News, photographed February 16, 2015. (Evans Caglage/The Dallas Morning News)

Mike Wilson is finishing up his first few months as the new editor of the Dallas Morning News. Wilson came to Dallas from ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight website, where he was managing editor.

Before that, he was the editor of the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay Times. While in St. Petersburg, Wilson oversaw a staff of incredibly talented writers and reporters, many of whom have been featured on this podcast, reporters like Ben Montgomery, Michael Kruse and Kelley Benham French. During the podcast, we talk about a series of stories that ran in the St. Petersburg Times called Encounters. One by Kruse was about a dad teaching his young daughter how to ride a bike.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the writers Wilson cultivated in Florida. He was the primary editor on Lane DeGregory’s story, “The Girl in the Window,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2009.

During our discussion, we also talk about a story Wilson said he recently read, titled “The Root of All Things,” by Nathan Thornburgh. The piece ran on the website roadsandkingdoms.com, an independent journal of food, politics, travel and culture. It’s a story well worth checking out.