What I’m working on:
I have two roles at Vice. I’m a correspondent for Vice News, which means I occasionally appear on shows like VICE News Tonight on VICE TV. I’m also the host of a new weekly podcast called VICE News Reports, and that’s the role that occupies most of my time.
VICE News Reports is exactly the kind of podcast that I’ve been craving for myself—one where the story matters most, and where the folks telling these stories get out of the way of the tape to make more room for people living through the events we report on. That means that we are using quite a bit of audio that we have gathered in the field. Moreover, we’re trying to make a podcast that doesn’t tell the listener how to feel. Our hope instead is that listeners will leave each episode knowing a heck of a lot more about an underreported subject, often in parts of the world that don’t get nearly as much attention as the U.S.
A good example of that is our very first episode, which looked at how the Hindu nationalist government in India has been pushing ayurvedic medicine as a treatment and preventative for coronavirus, despite there being no evidence that this approach works. This push toward natural medicine has also allowed quack doctors to make money during the pandemic by coming up with fake COVID-19 “cures.” The U.S. casts a large shadow and many folks might not be aware that India has the second largest outbreak in the world; we wanted to talk about how that’s playing out.
We also released a second episode on our launch day. It was centered around the NBA bubble. We had two players, one from the WNBA and one from the NBA, record themselves in the bubble over a period of weeks. The end result is a really intimate look at what it was like for these players to find themselves isolated from the outside world during a global crisis.
Where I work:
I used to work out of an office, but much like the rest of the media world, I am currently working from home because of the pandemic. I live in Brooklyn, and recently moved to an apartment where I can have an office and a dedicated recording booth—i.e., the closet in my office. To build out my closet recording booth, I used a combination of moving blankets and foam pads. It sounds pretty good!
Prior to moving, I was working from my bedroom and recording in my bedroom closet. I had to remove numerous items of clothing from the closet each time I recorded myself for the podcast I used to host, Vox.com’s Reset. It was a hassle. And although there are far worse problems to have when it comes to working from home, I’m very happy that I no longer have to dismantle a closet to record VICE News Reports.
It’s also extremely good for my mental health to work out of a space that I can leave at the end of the day. Once I’m done with work, I just close the door to the office. It’s magical. Somehow that physical barrier prevents my brain from being invaded with thoughts of work once the sun goes down.
Because I recently moved to a new apartment, I’m still finding my groove. But so far, my day starts like this: I wake up either at 6:00 or 7:00 a.m., depending on whether I’m working out in the morning (I lift weights at home three to four times a week). After my workout, I take my dog on a short walk before doing around 30 minutes of yoga with my wife in the living room. We started doing this during the pandemic and I really hope we keep this up once the world goes back to “normal.”
After yoga, I have breakfast and read the news. By the time that’s all done, it’s about 8:30 a.m. I take a very quick shower and then it’s time to sit at my desk. That’s when my actual work day starts.
From there, it’s all up in the air. I have a lot of Zoom meetings scheduled each day, and these blocks of time get moved around quite a bit to accommodate interviews, video shoots, or recording sessions.
That’s probably why I’ve become so attached to my morning routine. Despite working in media, I like when things are predictable—I’ve always been that way—and knowing that my morning went the way I wanted it to helps me roll with the punches when everything I thought was going to happen in a given day ends up changing.
When I’m not recording or in a meeting, I’m editing scripts or researching the topics we’re covering on the show. My day ends shortly after 6:00 p.m., and I try very hard to stick to that. I’ve worked jobs in the past that required a lot more of my time, but I didn’t necessarily feel more productive. I appreciate that all the time I spend “at work” now feels productive and useful.
Most productive part of my day:
I’m a morning person. I used to prefer writing at 6:00 a.m. Now, I still consider myself a morning person, but I would rather use that morning time to “get my mind right.” So, my most productive part of the day has shifted to a block of time between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. Come to think of it though, that may be because I tend to have fewer meetings scheduled around that time.
Most essential ritual or habit:
I can’t pick one; it’s gotta be a combo between regular exercise and my “morning pages”—a practice that comes from the book The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.
At the start of my work day, I sit at my computer and “force” myself to type nonstop for 15 minutes. (This is absolutely not how Cameron recommends that you write your morning pages, by the way. She recommends that you write three pages by hand and on paper—but who’s got time for that!)
Fifteen minutes isn’t a lot, but right now it’s enough for me. I use this time to do a “brain dump,” which means that I write down every random thing that’s clogging my brain, whether it’s a task I keep forgetting to accomplish, ideas for future projects, or doubts about whether I’m “good enough” at my job—you know, totally normal, boring things!
What I write often doesn’t make sense, and that’s totally fine. This is just an exercise designed to allow me to set these thoughts aside so I can focus on my work. That, combined with a weekly therapy appointment, is the secret to maintaining a certain level of sanity.
Favorite note-taking techniques/tools:
Oh man, I remember the days of magical recording pens. People used to swear by those! (I’m sure some still do? Whatever works!) I like Notion for note-taking, although it’s far from perfect.
How I keep track of my to-do list:
These days I use the spiraled Full Focus planner. I use it to keep track of yearly goals, meeting notes, and my most important day-to-day tasks. It’s also great for folks who like reflecting on their week before moving on to the next. There’s a section at the end of each week dedicated to doing just that, and it’s been a good centering tool for me in the middle of this global crisis.
Essential software/apps/productivity tools:
Honestly, music keeps me productive. I use Spotify when I’m not listening to drafts of Vice News Reports. The other thing I use are objects that keep my hands busy during video calls. I’ve found that having objects to fiddle around with (without having to look at them) during meetings helps keep me focused on the conversation. I now own two of these grippers—and my grip has definitely gotten stronger during the pandemic.
Favorite time waster/procrastination habit:
Playing with my dog. Talking to my dog. Walking my dog. Looking at my dog as she sleeps. Reggie is endlessly entertaining. She often sleeps next to me in, er, her cat tower, which is located in the office. She’s 7 lbs. and likes seeing things from a high viewpoint—so I got her a cat tower. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
My reading habits:
At the beginning of the year, I set a goal: I was going to read 35 books. The pandemic has put that out of reach for me. I am currently reading books 19, 20, 21, 22, and 23 all at once. That’s typical for me. I can never read just one book at a time. I like to mix things up too much.
Right now, I’m reading two science-fiction books and three non-fiction books. I should be reading another fiction book for my book club, but I won’t get around to it this time. Fortunately, my fellow book club members are often equally delinquent—so I’m not too worried about my little slip up.
Generally speaking, I think it’s really important for journalists to read fiction. How else are you going to learn to tell a story that will captivate an audience the way Octavia Butler can? If I had any advice to give young journalists, that would be it. Don’t forget to let yourself be transported to other worlds. It will make you better at your craft.
As for when I read, I always read before bed. I also listen to audiobooks when I’m exercising or walking my dog (podcasts too, of course). And recently, I’ve taken to reading earlier in the evenings as well.
I go to bed early. I’m generally reading in bed by 10:00 p.m., and I fall asleep around 11:00. Sleep is very important to me; it always has been. I sleep seven or eight hours a night—except when insomnia hits, which has happened more often recently, to my great dismay. I’m working on it.