How a NY Times reporter turned an angry reader into a story

Conor Dougherty

Sarah Bahr of the New York Times interviewed Conor Dougherty, an economics reporter for The Times who focuses on the West Coast, about how he developed a story from a woman who wrote him a letter disagreeing about his coverage.

Here is an excerpt:

Did you know who she was?

I recognized her name as the founder of Livable California, an organization that opposes state housing legislation, and I assumed she disagreed with basically everything I’d written.

What happened next?

We had coffee, and I liked her right away. She had a cheeky way about her. She asked me to take a picture holding up a Livable California pen, and I shared it on social media, which she thought was funny. Then we kept in touch during the pandemic through emails, phone conversations and Zoom meetings.

At what point did she go from an acquaintance to a profile subject?

A few months ago, I talked to her about potentially doing a profile of her. We then had several extensive conversations about her feelings, and I asked if I could come to her house and sit down for an interview.

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