The Daily’s Michael Barbaro and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey discuss upcoming book


Renée Abbott, news correspondent

Content warning: Discussion of sexual assault.

On Wednesday, An Unlikely Story bookstore hosted a virtual event featuring Michael Barbaro, the host of The New York Times’ “The Daily” podcast, and Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning authors of “Chasing the Truth: a Young Journalists’ Guide to Investigative Reporting.” 

The bookstore is owned by Jeff Kinney, the author of acclaimed children’s series “Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and his wife Julie Kinney. Around 250 people attended the event on Zoom to hear the conversation about Kantor and Twohey’s book with Barbaro. 

“Chasing the Truth” is adapted from Kantor and Twohey’s 2019 book “She Said” that told the story about breaking the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal story in 2017. Their reporting launched the #MeToo movement and ultimately led to the conviction of the former Hollywood producer. “She Said” covers the work put into the coverage, while “Chasing the Truth” offers more journalistic insights for aspiring young writers, according to the authors. 

“I wish I had this book as a student journalist,” Barbaro said.

“Chasing the Truth” was adapted into a format more suitable to young people by Ruby Shamir, who is the award winning author of the children’s series “What’s The Big Deal About …”  Each book discusses a concept related to government or history. 

Kantor and Twohey were inspired to adapt “She Said”into a “Chasing the Truth” by the young people they met who are passionate about making a difference and felt the urge to share their own tricks and tips to make journalism more accessible. 

“There is something going on with journalism and young people. There’s this thirst, this desire, whether it’s from student journalists or just kids concerned with the state of the world, to confront authority, to understand journalism as a medium, to find out what is happening with the truth, and yet journalism can seem so mysterious,” Kantor said. “Investigative journalism in particular can be like a magic show where you are not supposed to reveal your tricks.”

Kantor and Twohey revealed that neither of them planned on becoming journalists, and both stumbled into their careers. Since they became journalists, they have both reported on major topics. 

Kantor focuses on long form investigative stories, some about workers’ rights at big companies such as Starbucks and Amazon which led to real changes in the company’s policies. 

In her time as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Twohey wrote about the way that rape kits were sitting in storage collecting dust rather than being used to solve crimes, which led to a bill being passed mandating the testing of every rape kit. Kantor and Twohey won the Pulitzer Prizes for public service in 2018 following their investigation into the Weinstein story. 

“[The event] was really encouraging. It’s a bit intimidating sometimes to think about the [journalism] industry, where it stands right now, and trying to break into the industry,” said Maya Miller, a student journalist at Duke University. “Hearing from these two very successful women who didn’t necessarily plan their life around getting to this spot as their goal was really encouraging.”

Barbaro asked the journalists about different experiences that they had while investigating. These “teachable moments,” as Barbaro referred to them, reflect the exciting nature of journalism: knocking on someone’s door to get the story, celebrity encounters or finally getting your hands on the memo from your source.

A teachable moment for Twohey was when she learned to be discreet when contacting a woman who was a victim of Weinstein’s doing. Since she did not want to expose the woman at her workplace after only being able to be in contact with the secretary, Twohey ended up traveling to one of her relatives’ houses and knocking on the door. Twohey noted that the woman said that she “had been waiting for this knock on the door for 25 years.” 

Kantor also stressed the importance of building trust and being earnest when interviewing sources. Actress Rose McGowan, who was a victim of Weinstein and was one of the first to speak out against him, responded to Kandor’s initial outreach and said that she distrusted the New York Times as an institution and would not give Kandor an interview. Rather than giving up, Kantor was open and truthful about what her goals were. Kantor said,“she believed in journalism” and eventually was able to talk to McGowan. 

Barbaro also spoke about building trust by going into every interview with an open mind and treating each source as a human being. Twohey recounted how she and her team ended up interviewing people who were part of Weinstein’s team of lawyers and his family members.

“I think that remembering that everybody is a human being is not just the right thing to do as a human being, but also an effective way to conduct interviews,” Twohey said. 

Kantor and Twohey said that they were driven by a “fear of failure” and felt a deep sense of responsibility to carry out justice for the women who have been abused. Due to the serious nature of the topic, Kantor and Twohey spoke about how important it was for them to be mindful of the victims’ trauma, but also ensuring that they understood the story completely. Each story was corroborated and investigated for accuracy to protect the credibility of the reporters. 

“I think telling this kind of story to a reporter is sort of like going to a surgeon for an operation: you want to know that you are in really professional, experienced hands. Even though we would be immensely moved by the stories we were hearing, we would hold it together and we wouldn’t become overly emotional in interviews,” Kantor said. “I think people appreciate that because they want to be a part of a story that is professional and well done.”

New York Times Books described “She Said” as a feminist “All the President’s Men.” For Miller, it was much more than that.

“For young journalists, I think it is a very inspiring story, maybe even more so inspiring than ‘All the President’s Men’ for me at least, being a female journalist and seeing women uncover this story of these abuses by this very powerful man against women,” Miller said. “It feels like an even better story of journalistic inspiration for our generation.”

“She Said” is also being adapted into a movie directed by Maria Schrader and starring Corey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan to be released this year.