How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Liz Day, a senior story editor for The Times’s new television show, “The Weekly,” discussed the tech she’s using.
“The Weekly” is something new that’s coming from The Times. What should we know about it?
It’s The Times’s most ambitious TV project ever: a 30-minute documentary show, premiering in June, that will air on FX on Sunday nights and then stream on Hulu. We’re taking great reporting from the Times newsroom and bringing it to TV for a new audience. You should tune in.
You’ve also worked at ProPublica and “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” What kind of tech did you use in those workplaces?
At ProPublica, we used databases like LexisNexis Public Records for people-finding, Pacer for federal court records and Factiva for news clips. Because investigative reporters are often looking for those who don’t want to be found, we’d also keep an eye out for weird sites that promised to unearth off-the-grid cellphone numbers or scrape the deep web.
ProPublica has a wonderful open-source culture devoted to the public interest. Anytime they got their hands on unruly government data, the talented folks there would build an app to make access easy. Thanks to them, you can look up your doctor to see how much money he or she gets from drug companies.
When I joined “Last Week Tonight,” I discovered a whole new world of video that I hadn’t known existed. Did you know there’s a database where you can search all of President Trump’s video appearances, including a vlog he kept from 2011 to 2014? Or that the wizards behind the Wayback Machine have a tool where you can search the closed captions for local, cable and network TV news from the last decade?
We also used Scripto, a program for writing and producing television that Stephen Colbert helped build.
What are your most important gadgets and apps for doing your job?
Lame answer but definitely my iPhone. Depending on the type of person I’m communicating with, I’ll use text, Slack, WhatsApp or a regular old telephone call. On my laptop, I use Google Docs, Evernote, Scrivener, Airtable and Dropbox. We use Frame.io to share or watch cuts of episodes.
More old school: giant spiral-bound notebooks. It feels soothing to write in them. But if I need to work from home after hours, I sometimes end up having to take photos of my handwritten notes.
What tech do you love to use in your personal life and why?
My husband has Sonos speakers set up around our apartment. It often feels as if I use them to fill every moment at home with podcasts and news. Every once in a while, I remember how nice it is to listen to music instead.
For reading, I use email newsletters and Instapaper, and we share a Kindle account so we can read the same books. I use Twitter to find unusual news or stuff that makes me laugh. I fall down Instagram rabbit holes all the time. An unexpected app I still use is Foursquare. I love seeing all the spots where my husband and I went 10 years ago.
I have no interest in Alexa, but we do have SmartThings, which sends your phone an alert every time your front door opens. I just got a letter that our (low-tech) building is installing a new buzzer system that has facial recognition. So I guess I will be using that soon, too!
I was given Beats wireless headphones as a gift. Initially, I thought they were for teens, but now I wear them all the time for travel and sometimes even sleep in them.
I almost never go to brick-and-mortar stores anymore, so I enjoy buying little treats from New York Magazine’s The Strategist. There’s always a magic skin care potion or some other fun new product that promises to improve your life for $15.
What is your personal TV setup, and has it changed?
I cut the cord in 2008. It was funny because at the time, my job was to analyze what people liked to watch on TV. But on principle, I resent that there’s barely any choice of cable TV providers.
I spent a while infecting my laptop with God-knows-what from various Napster-esque video streaming sites.
But now it’s so easy. We have Apple TV, where we subscribe to apps from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Showtime and HBO and then buy anything else a la carte from iTunes. Sometimes, I listen to the audio podcast version of shows like “60 Minutes” or PBS’s “Frontline.”
I know that sounds like I must watch a lot of TV, but I swear I really don’t. It’s fun to follow the TV industry like sports — keeping an eye on what’s new, what’s a hit and what has bombed. You can learn a lot about the world by understanding what people watch on TV!
What do you do to take a break from tech?
Hot yoga. Sixty minutes in a 100-plus-degree room standing on one leg. Or nightly walks around the neighborhood with my husband. No phones and just laughs.