A weekly conversation with a non-fiction writer about how they got their start and how they tell stories. Co-produced by Longform and The Atavist.




Episode 325: Lizzie Johnson

Lizzie Johnson covers wildfires for the San Francisco Chronicle.

“It’s kind of like when you’re a beginning journalist and you have to write an obituary—calling the family of the person who died seems like this insurmountable, very invasive task and you really don’t want to do it. That’s kind of how I felt about interviewing fire victims at first. I felt like I was somehow intruding on their grief and their pain. But somewhere along the way I realized there’s healing power in talking about what you’ve been through. Saying it out loud and being able to claim ownership to it. I found that time after time these people are very grateful because they need to talk. They have something to say in the aftermath of this big, massive thing that just came and wiped out everything they knew. They really do just need someone to listen to them. I have never had someone tell me, ‘Go away, we don’t want to talk to you.’ And I’m completely bowled over by that every single time.”

Thanks to MailChimp and Pitt Writers for sponsoring this week's episode.

  • @lizziejohnsonnn
  • Johnson on Longform
  • Johnson's archive at San Francisco Chronicle
  • [0:40] "A Fire, a Newborn Baby and a Pact: Tales of Survival From Paradise" (San Francisco Chronicle • Nov 2018)
  • [3:20] "For Survivors of the Tubbs Fire, a New, Unhappy Normal" (San Francisco Chronicle • Oct 2018)
  • [4:05] "After Deadly Carr Fire, a Question of How—and Whether—to Rebuild 1,000 Homes" (San Francisco Chronicle • Aug 2018)
  • [17:45] Noah Berger Photography
  • [23:40] "After Wine Country Fires, Victims Confront Emotional Ruins: ‘We Have a Long Way to Go’" (San Francisco Chronicle • Dec 2017)
  • [29:45] "150 Minutes of Hell" (San Francisco Chronicle • Dec 2018)
  • [39:20] "Ed Bledsoe Couldn’t Outrace the Carr Fire to Save His Family. But in His Heart, They’re Alive" (San Francisco Chronicle • Aug 2018)
  • [41:05] "Signs of Life Amid Scars and Loss" (San Francisco Chronicle • Apr 2018)
  • [42:50] "Regret Haunts Wine Country Fire Hero: ‘I’ve Never Cried This Much’" (San Francisco Chronicle • Jul 2018)
  • [55:10] The Centerpiece
  • [55:15] "City of Ash"(The Centerpiece • Oct 2018)


 2019-01-09  55m