A Day in the Life of Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega is a science journalist and audio producer based in Mexico City. He has a healthy obsession with Latin America, and that’s the region he’s focused most of his reporting on. He has written for NatureScienceScientific American, The Associated Press, and other outlets. His audio stories have appeared on podcasts such as El Hilo and Las Raras, where he works as a story coordinator, handling a wide range of editorial tasks. He studied biology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico and then got a degree in science journalism from New York University. Follow Emiliano on Twitter @emiliano_mega.

 

Janice Bryson

Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

 

What I’m working on:

I work as a freelancer covering Latin America for different publications. Right now, I am looking into a few story ideas that involve a combination of news reporting and feature writing—I am still trying to find the right balance between those two. I’ve never had a specific beat, and that allows me to write about whatever I’m interested in. However, I’ve consciously tried to do more investigative journalism and cover misconduct. Last year I spent months working on a feature about a series of sexual harassment complaints in a Mexican research powerhouse, which is a subject I had dipped my toes into before but had never fully immersed myself in. I also love to work on stories that challenge people’s ideas. Last month, for example, I did another feature that looked into how narratives about race have infiltrated human genetics in Latin America, and what that means.

I still think of myself as a science journalist. But it’s also true that I’ve gradually started to branch out. In early 2021 I got a part-time gig with Las Raras, a Spanish-language documentary podcast that tells stories from across Latin America and other regions. We aim to be innovative in audio storytelling and design, and we’re launching the second half of our sixth season. Right now, I’m producing three different stories in Mexico. They’re about human rights and injustice and people who challenge the norms. The experience has been intense and I’ve learned a lot. It’s also been a refreshing change from exclusively reporting on science (which I will continue to do, dear editors!)

Where I work: 

A clean, well-organized office with hardwood floors, two windows with frosted glass, a bookshelf, and a desk with a large computer screen.Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

I live in Mexico City with my husband, and we both work from home. In the beginning of the pandemic, we were lucky to find an apartment near the neighborhood I grew up in. It was interesting to come back and see how the area had changed after so many years. For months, my office was a work in progress and we mostly used it as a storage room. We kind of still do, but now it feels like my own space.

Next to my desk I have a metal plaque from the 1948 Olympics in London. It has the number 89 painted on it. And it belonged to my grandfather, who competed professionally as a cyclist. This was unthinkable for someone like him at the time. For most of his life, all he knew was poverty. But he managed to compete with some of the world’s best athletes in Europe. My dad gave the plaque to me in 2017, when I left to grad school in New York City. He told me I’d have to give it back once I returned to Mexico but I never did. He hasn’t asked for it either. It’s pretty symbolic for us. I like looking at it from time to time. It reminds me of a phrase he always says: fuerza y voluntad (strength and will).

Daily routine:

I generally wake up around 8:00 a.m. and, unless I have early-morning calls with editors or sources, stay in bed checking my emails and Twitter. Then I have breakfast with my husband. I’m still figuring out when’s the right time for me to exercise. Last year I started swimming, which meant that I had to get up around 7:00 a.m. But I haven’t gone back since late December because COVID-19 infections have been at their peak in Mexico City. So I try to do yoga or use the water rower that my husband bought because he liked the one from House of Cards. Some days I succeed.

Anyway, work usually starts at 9:00 a.m. and it’s different every day, depending on the project I’m working on. (Next week, for example, I will do a lot of field recordings for the stories I’m producing.) By 6:00 p.m. I call it a day. This all goes out the window if I have a tight deadline and need to get things done ASAP.

Most productive part of my day: 

I’m generally at my most productive between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Around 9:00 p.m. my brain refuses to think about work entirely.

Most essential ritual or habit:

I wouldn’t say I have an essential ritual. Whenever I feel stressed or blocked, a walk helps me think and relax. I’d like to make this more of a habit.

Favorite note-taking techniques/tools:

A bulletin board with a metal plaque from the 1948 Olympics in London that has the number 89 on it.Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

I have a thing for hardcover notebooks and planners. Just having something to put down my ideas, or to write or doodle on during interviews, feels right. I really like Moleskine and Leuchtturm notebooks. They’re so pretty. They’re also very expensive, so I try to make them last by filling them up to the last page.

I also have a collection of reporter’s notebooks, some of which I got during my time at The Associated Press, that I use when reporting in person. For written stories, I use a tiny SONY ICD-TX650 recorder that I’m very attached to. For audio stories, particularly for voice-overs, I use a Blue Yeti microphone. For Las Raras, however, I do all final voice-overs in a recording studio. Audio quality is part of our essence.

How I keep track of my to-do list:

I use Notion. I know some people find it confusing and far from perfect but I really like that you can tailor it to your needs. Mine is a personalized version of Rose Eveleth’s great freelancer spreadsheet. I have my to-do list there, which I update every morning. And also my calendar, where I schedule meetings, interviews, and appointments. Notion is also where I jot down ideas for potential stories and draft initial pitches for features or other ambitious projects. I also have a tab that allows me to keep track of which stories I’m working on, which of them I’ve filed, and how many I’ve published and where. And another tab where I stay on top of my invoices (I did not have a system like that before, and for a few years I only relied on my memory; I clearly did not know better). I also keep my editors’ contacts and the stories we’ve worked on together. And last year I started creating an ever-growing database of sources I’ve interviewed, which makes it easier to search people by country and discipline.

There’s something satisfying about sticky notes, however. So I also have a bunch next to me just in case I need to write something down.

Essential software/apps/productivity tools: 

I’d say my holy trinity is made up of Notion, Slack, and Trint. Slack is where I usually keep in touch with the rest of Las Raras team, so I use it daily. And Trint, I’ve found, is great for transcribing interviews in languages other than English.

Also, not sure if this counts, but Spotify. Music is important to me and can put me in the right mood to work. Or in the right mood to forget about work. I like many different genres but lately have been obsessed with this Brazilian artist called Liniker. Also reggaetón. Reggaetón is life.

Favorite time waster/procrastination habit: 

A desk that holds a computer, a small cactus, and a statue of a what appears to be a complete T-rex skeleton.Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

I’ve got so many of these it’s hard to pick just one. But I do love video games. Not just any video game, though. I love third-person, open-world games that are heavy on narrative. I don’t know. It just feels like stepping into different universes.

Languages have always been fascinating to me. I started studying and practicing Portuguese before the pandemic hit, and was able to keep learning online for a while. But now it feels like I can’t find the time to get back to it. I definitely want to, though.

My reading habits:

I try to use some evenings to read the stories of colleagues I admire. This doesn’t always work because oftentimes I just want to decompress and unwind from the day. However, I am rediscovering my love for literature, which I sadly abandoned for a couple of years. I started last year by joining a book club. The experience very quickly taught me that I’m not a fast reader and that I dislike reading with other people. So I’m just going solo. On my nightstand right now I’ve got Felicidade Clandestina (Clandestine Happiness) by Brazilian novelist Clarice Lispector and El Olvido que Seremos (The Oblivion That We Will Be) by Colombian journalist Héctor Abad Faciolince.

This is not a reading habit, but I do listen to a lot of podcasts, particularly on the weekends. It makes me happy to find projects that experiment with audio in ways that are surprising to me. In 2021 I discovered Here Be Monsters, which has got to be one of the weirdest podcasts I’ve listened to. Their episodes are fascinating and I can’t wait for their next season. When I lived in the U.S. I loved a weekly podcast called Nancy, which were stories about the LGBTQ+ experience. It was a great, warm, and inspiring project until WNYC shut it down in 2020. I’ve not found anything similar to it, but I recently came across a podcast called Cuir (Queer, in Spanish) that has not disappointed so far.

Sleep schedule: I cherish my sleep and have never had trouble sleeping. I’m usually tucked in by 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. Sometimes I stay up late scrolling through Twitter, but I want to get rid of this habit.

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