Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on Harvey Weinstein and Journalistic Impact

Published on: Sep 13, 2019fb-roundtwitter-roundemail-round
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Meet Words With Author Friends, a new Q&A with theSkimm’s favorite authors. First up: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Their reporting on the Harvey Weinstein scandal helped spark the #MeToo movement. Now they've written a book, “She Said,” that goes behind the scenes of their reporting and the lengths Weinstein went to to try and stop them.

Skimm your book for us.

Two reporters, many brave sources, and a story that sparked more change than any of them had ever imagined.

What does your business card say?

Investigative reporters (and proud of it).

 Where do you write and when?

At the Times. In our apartments in Brooklyn. Sometimes while hiding from our children. But writing is actually a relatively small part of investigative journalism — we probably used more total word count in our carefully phrased texts to sources than we did on the first Weinstein article.

Tell us something readers don’t know about publishing a book…

In the case of our book: a lot of our story consisted of secrets. Things that were off the record even after we broke the Harvey Weinstein story in 2017. Facts about Weinstein and who helped him that still hadn’t come to light. So in order to write our book, we had to do a lot more digging, and going back to some sources to persuade them to come out of the shadows.

When you're looking for inspiration, you...

Think of our bravest sources, like Laura Madden, one of the first two women to go on the record about Weinstein. Just as the story was going to press, she was about to undergo post-breast cancer surgery — a mastectomy and reconstruction.

Favorite word? 

"Impact," as in journalistic impact.

Least favorite word?

"Correction," as in, we got something wrong in an article.

How do you deal with writer's block?

Newspapers don’t allow for writer’s block. The deadline is the muse.

What does success mean to you...

Public service.

Hardest career decision you’ve had to make…

MT: To leave a reporting job at The Moscow Times after working there for less than a year, acknowledging that reporting in Russia was much more difficult than I had ever imagined and that my best move was to throw in the towel.

JK: Dropping out of law school to pursue journalism. I had always been a journalism junkie but lacked the confidence to think that I could be the one writing or editing the stories. Finally, faced with the prospect of becoming an unhappy attorney, I allowed myself to make the leap. Many others told me it was a huge mistake. My parents were pretty horrified. But within two weeks of becoming an assistant at Slate magazine, I knew I was home.

If you weren’t an author, you’d be…

MT: An interrogator.

JK: A psychologist, which accounts for some of the difference in our reporting styles.

Best advice for an aspiring author... 

Establish a schedule and the discipline to stick to it. When we took a leave from the New York Times to write this book, we rented a windowless office that was a 20-minute walk from our apartments. We were there every day from 9am to 5pm, with strategic yoga breaks.

Worst advice for an aspiring author...

Wait around for inspiration to hit.

What would you die on a hill for?

The freedom of reporters in our country, and across the world, to document the truth and hold the powerful to account.

What story can you not stop thinking about?

Since returning to the Times newsroom, we have both been swept up in reporting on Jeffrey Epstein, a story that has more questions than answers right now.

One thing you’d tell your younger self...

Don’t get too comfortable with the highs — or the lows.

Favorite book from your childhood?

JK: Anything by Madeleine L’Engle.

MT: "Franny and Zooey" by JD Salinger.

Book on your nightstand right now?

Samantha Power’s "The Education of an Idealist," Rebecca Makkai’s "The Great Believers," "Florida" by Lauren Groff, "Ask Again, Yes" by Mary Beth Keane.

PS: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. All opinions expressed by the interviewee are their own.

PPS: "She Said" is editorially selected, but if you purchase it, theSkimm may get something in return. Thanks.

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