A Day in the Life of Kate Travis


Kate Travis Linda Wang Photography

What I’m working on:

What else? Pluto! Today was one of the press conferences, so I was on live tweet duty so our reporter could focus on reporting. Now I’m lining up the weekend’s news stories and ideas for social-media coverage. Then I’ll make the magazine’s weekly editor’s-picks e-blast, and then I’ll go home way too late for a Friday night.

But what’s a day without meetings? I had three of them in the first 45 minutes of my workday today. An art meeting for a magazine feature, where generally my role is to sit there and say, “Can we make that interactive?”; our daily news huddle, where we go through the lineup of what’s coming in and what’s going out; and a meeting on a special project that we’re launching in September, for which I have some work to do that will entail working with a designer and a developer.

I’m also the blog editor, so I spent not nearly enough time working with the blogs that are in my inbox, and will catch up on that over the weekend or in the mornings (more on that in a bit).

The core of my job is to oversee the content on ScienceNews.org. Are we publishing things regularly, on schedule, and when our audience is online? Do stories have good headlines? Strong art? Are they getting picked up by news sites, search engines, and social-media audiences? Are the next few features, interactives, and online-only projects where they need to be, or do I need to jump in to write, edit, troubleshoot, or build?

Travis’s office. Kate Travis

The reality is I don’t spend nearly enough time on those great questions. Being a digital editor also means that people come to me when they see mistakes or problems on stories, the website is doing something weird, their Internet doesn’t work, they need my company credit card, or they can’t figure out the copy machine. I also sometimes have to field questions from readers, and I’m on some organization-wide teams, which equals meetings. Plus, my job is the Internet, and the Internet is an infinity of information, articles, questions, and cat videos. So I spend a lot of time going down rabbit holes, usually even work-related ones. Yesterday’s: What / how much text should you include in a hyperlink? I can tell you that the Internet has a diverse array of opinions on that, and whatever you’re doing, as long as it’s clear to the user, is probably just fine.

The door to Travis’s office, featuring her collection of “bad science art.” Kate Travis

Where I work:

Science News is in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. We’re in an old brownstone that can at times feel like a frat house. My office is too crowded with furniture, too messy, and too beige. I swore I was going to fix it up at New Year’s, which, as you may be aware, was some months ago. I have an awesome standing desk that is an old table up on a contraption my dad built for me, but I don’t stand at it often enough because it means my back is to the door.

Daily routine:

Alarm 1, NPR, goes off at 6:30 a.m. Alarm 2, my phone set to the Black Keys’”Gold on the Ceiling,” goes off 10 minutes later. The goal is to be out of bed by 6:45 before Writer’s Almanac, because although I grew up listening to Garrison Keillor, I will immediately fall back asleep when he starts talking.

After pouring a cup of coffee, most days I sit down for an hour to an hour and a half of work. This is usually when I edit blog posts (yes, we edit our bloggers), read magazine proofs, clean out email to see what important things I missed the day before, or go down the analytics rabbit hole for our website or social-media accounts. This is the most efficient time of my day because no email is coming in, no one is in my doorway and the cat has been fed.

Then I head to work, either by metro or bike, and am two minutes late for the 10:00 a.m. news huddle. After hearing the lineup, the web producer and I usually chat further about what’s coming and what needs doing. After that, every day is totally different. Usually I produce the blog post I edited that morning and schedule or publish it. Hopefully at some point—whether it’s in the morning, on the commute, or after the huddle—I’ll check in on what’s happening in the world. Then maybe I’ll get some time to work on a strategy/big-picture thing for a bit. Or maybe even edit a story. Then I probably have a meeting about something. I’ll see what’s blowing up on our social-media accounts and/or website. Every other week I work on proofreading and checking our iPad edition before it gets submitted for sale in our app. On press weeks I may work on proof pages, or might just work on getting the magazine content online. Maybe I’ll talk to a blogger about a post idea or a writer about an online-only feature.

Then, when I’m hitting my stride on something, the website will break, or someone will ask a question that will take three hours to answer. I vow to leave every day at 6:00. In practice, that means 7:30.

Most productive part of my day:

Between 7:00 and 8:30 in the morning.

Most essential ritual or habit:

The bike ride home! Even when it’s really hot, or maybe lightly raining, my bike ride home is when I reset. Plus I have a very D.C. commute that takes me past the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and through Capitol Hill.

Mobile device:

An HTC One and a four-year-old iPad with a busted screen. The phone is my real tool, though. That’s where I read most of my news.


I just got switched to an HP EliteBook at work with a whole lotta memory, after one of the IT guys saw how many programs and browser windows I keep open. I use both the laptop monitor and an external monitor and would love a third screen too. At home it’s an HP Spectre x360, which is new and pretty cool, but I’m mostly using it like a regular laptop.


Travis keeping calm and carrying on at her desk. Kate Travis


Essential software/apps/productivity tools:

Evernote. All my work notes, interesting articles, ideas, and brainstorms are in Evernote and synced to every device and computer. Also Google Drive and Dropbox. And the Yoga Studio app on my iPad is keeping me centered these days.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:

Facebook. And YouTube clips of late-night talk shows that I don’t stay up to watch.

My reading habits:

Right now I’m using Flipboard and SmartNews to read news, but that will change in a few weeks, no doubt. (Last month I was obsessed with NewsBlur, an RSS reader.) I get most of my daily news through e-newsletters—10 things you need to know today from The Week, the NY Times daily update, a few journalism roundups, and tech/web e-blasts. And most of that is read on my phone.

Funny enough, I am not an e-book adopter. No Kindle, no books on phones or tablets. Gotta be book books.

I also enjoy buying magazines. I wish I had more time to enjoy reading them. I subscribe to several magazines via iTunes, but the busted iPad screen has definitely interfered with my enjoyment of them.

Sleep schedule:

I think I need more sleep than I get, but the reality is that I function pretty well on seven hours of sleep and more coffee than can possibly be good for you.

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