A Day in the Life of Nidhi Subbaraman

Nidhi Subbaraman is a science reporter at BetaBoston, the Boston Globe‘s technology channel. Previously, she covered science and tech at NBCNews.com. Her work has also appeared online at MIT Technology Review, Fast Company, New Scientist, and Nature News, among others. Nidhi is also the co-founder of Culture Dish, a project to support diversity in science writing. Follow her on Twitter @NidhiSubs.

 

Nidhi SubbaramanCourtesy of Nidhi Subbaraman

Nidhi Subbaraman

 

What Im working on:

I’m staff writer, tech and science reporter, and Jill-of-all-trades at BetaBoston, the Boston Globe’s new technology website. I blog for BetaBoston and file news pieces for the paper.

I’ve always been obsessed with the biology-technology boundary and I’m currently captivated by the ways in which human behavior and culture are being shaped by the machines among us.

I also help run Culture Dish with Apoorva Mandavilli. It’s a web operation to support diversity in science writing.

Standing/sitting workstation. You can sit, but you'll die young.Nidhi Subbaraman

Standing/sitting workstation. Stand or die young!

Where I work:

My standing/sitting desk in the newsroom is my workstation during the day. I’m sitting 99 percent of the time until the lead-weight around my soul reminds me that I will die early if I don’t get off my chair, even though it’s just. so. comfy.

On weeknights and weekends I’m at my kitchen table.

Daily routine:

I’m up by 7:30 a.m., coffeemaker switched on while I hop in the shower. I’m out walking to the subway by 9:00. On the 40-minute ride to the office I scan the news on my phone, checking my Twitter lists and the few newsletters that land in my inbox, emailing myself links along the way for story leads.

Once I reach my desk it’s nonstop until lunch. I’ll file a blog post or two if news is breaking, then turn to reporting a longer story, some writing, a touch of editing, and freshening up the BetaBoston social streams.

Though I do most of my reporting on the phone, sometimes I’ll meet sources in the city or wander into talks on the campuses around town.

Every few hours I’ll open up Twitter and Facebook. Some days the change of pace is refreshing, like diving into a cool pool. Other days it feels like my body rhythms are racing to keep pace with the stream of tweets. When I feel my breathing getting shallower and faster, that’s when I call time out: Stand up, stretch, walk away for a water break, go stare at the printing presses in the building because, holy crap, we have printing presses in the building.

The presses.Nidhi Subbaraman

The presses.

Throughout the day, I use the Pocket bookmarklet to save long features I land on through Twitter or elsewhere.

Then there’s more reporting, often another blog post to catch late afternoon news, other times tying up a longer piece that’ll go live the next day.

On the subway ride home I’ll open up Pocket for some fun reading: journo gossip off CJR or the Nieman Lab, a spicy Slate takedown, a nice long magazine piece that has zero impact on my beat.

Some days I’ll pause for a few seconds to think about exercise: When was the last time I got to the gym? Then I walk out of the station and march right home to dinner. Often it’s fresh-fried falafel from the Armenian restaurant across the street. Other times it’s instant noodle soup topped off with an egg and frozen spinach.

Depending on the day, there may be another hour or two of work before bed.

Most productive part of my day:

Between 10:00 in the morning and 2:00 in the afternoon, before I break for lunch. Then again between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.

Most essential ritual or habit:

Coffee making, coffee drinking.

Mobile device:

iPhone 5 running iOS 8.

Computer:

13” MacBook Air with a second monitor and Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. 11” Air at home.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

We use Slack to talk to each other at work, so I’m IM-ing on that through the day, and it’s one of the few apps on my phone that has permission to ding me a notification.

My iPhone is my essential reporting tool. I record interviews using Voice Memos (which I can then save to iTunes on my MacBook Air), take photos and videos (for posting on Twitter or just for research), and type notes on it, which I can email myself later.

I mainline Twitter via TweetDeck during the day for news. On my phone I pipe my secret Twitter lists into the Flipboard app. It recognizes links in tweets and lays out the text and slots in photos to look like a magazine. It’s much, much easier on the eyes than the Twitter feed.

Feedly’s my go-to RSS feed reader, though these days I check RSS less and less.

When I was a freelancer and the $/hr. ratio was important, I used the Harvest time tracker to budget hours I spent on various projects. I’m someone who’ll easily spend 50 hours a week on a single feature, and this was critical to keep me moving. I can’t recommend it enough.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Twitter, woof—that’s at work where my screen is visible to anyone in the newsroom. If I’m working at home I can lose hours following cooking videos on YouTube. Ten new ways to cook a butternut squash, mmm.

My reading habits:

Wired is the only magazine I regularly read in dead-tree form. The perfume samples sealed into the page folds are a big draw.

I rely on my iPad for all other long-form reading. That trove of features saved from everywhere on my Pocket app? I’ll pull those up once again on my iPad before bed, or during the weekend, when I try to shut out work emails and work-related writing.

The Kindle iPad app is the only way I read books. Before I go traveling I load up a couple of my favorite titles on it and can stay entertained for hours. The last one I read was Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Sleep schedule:

None to speak of. It’s taking years off my life, I’ll bet. That and the ramen.

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