How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? J. David Goodman, a metro reporter, discussed the tech he’s using.
What tech tools do you, a metro reporter covering New York, rely on to stay on top of your beat?
The most important tech for me is incredibly basic: a phone that doubles as a recorder, a laptop, notebooks, pens and a portable phone charger. I pretty much spend my days toggling among messaging apps (iMessage, WhatsApp, Signal), email, Twitter and the phone.
I’ve also been spending more quality time recently with publicly available data, which is a gateway to hours on Google Sheets or Excel to put together stories related to campaign finance and lobbying. But the best way to stay on top of the beat is still to check in with people regularly, especially in person. Coffee can often be the most effective technology for generating newspaper stories.
ls there any tech you’ve stopped using?
I don’t use Facebook at all for life or work anymore, and I’ve tried to limit my Twitter intake. Twitter is incredibly useful for covering politics and breaking news; less so for getting insight into a secretive company like Amazon or for the beat I’m now on, which is looking into the intersection of moneyed interests and political power in the New York area. For that, messages are the currency and, even more so, good old-fashioned face-to-face meetings.
I also recently activated Screen Time on my phone, so I now feel a nagging counter running in the back of my mind when I’m using Twitter or Instagram for anything other than work. That has caused me to use those apps a lot less. Unfortunately, the Screen Time app defaults to count messages as social networking — but that’s work for me!
I also am trying a personal challenge of not taking my phone out of my pocket in an elevator. It’s harder than you would think.
What are the New York-specific apps that you love or hate?
I love the app for the local public radio station, which is easy to use and helpful for monitoring the mayor or governor when he jumps on to the radio station at a moment’s notice (something Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is particularly fond of doing).
For getting around town, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s app is indispensable. The subway system is bad now, but when I grew up in New York City, the subways were a total mystery; you never knew when the train was going to come. Now at least that small uncertainty is gone: You know it’s not going to be here for eight minutes, so maybe a Citi Bike is faster.
That’s another app I love, the one for the bike-sharing system, mostly for the serendipity of how it makes you navigate the city in a new way, finding a bike and then trying to figure out where you can drop it off. Sometimes it brings me to new parts of neighborhoods I’ve been to a million times.
I probably never felt as modern as I did one evening a few years back while biking over the Brooklyn Bridge on a Citi Bike, directions for my destination coming through from Google Maps, whatever music I was listening to interrupted by a call from the copy desk whose questions about a story running the next day I answered while coasting down to Brooklyn Heights.
You’ve written about tech companies like Google and Amazon invading New York. How is the tech industry changing the city?
One thing people who don’t live in New York City sometimes fail to appreciate is how big it really is. Even some people who live here don’t realize just how easy it is for the city to absorb change. Take Google: It moved into Chelsea without many people there even noticing.
Now, there have of course been changes to the city that come from technology companies locating here, but they’re not always obvious or easily separated from other industries, like fashion, advertising or finance, especially when you’re talking about Chelsea and Lower Manhattan, where many of the new start-ups are congregating. Are new coffee shops sprouting up because of new tech companies? How much can we blame them for skyrocketing rents? Hard for me to say.
Amazon would have been different because it was going to land in an area that is not, at the moment, a hub of tech. So the presence of 25,000 Amazon workers would have been more obvious and the changes that followed more easily ascribed to them.
But those changes are happening anyway, even in the Long Island City neighborhood where Amazon proposed building a major corporate campus. In the last few years, multiple residential towers have sprouted up blocks away from where Amazon was going to build, many of which have not even opened yet.
And Amazon already has a few thousand employees scattered about other areas of New York, including 34th Street in Midtown Manhattan. Most people who pass by have no idea the company is even there.
Many venture capitalists like to think of New York as the next Silicon Valley. Is it getting there?
It’s getting there, but the cultures are not the same. I was talking recently with a person who deals with a lot of technology companies, someone who is trying to bridge the gap, and they talked about how different some people from big tech companies out West can be from people you meet in New York.
I think you saw that most dramatically with Amazon’s flat-footed rollout. The company, from the start, thought it would be welcomed because it was bringing so many jobs. At the first news conference, the Amazon team was genuinely surprised by the onslaught of questions from reporters. Many New Yorkers were equally baffled that the company, which has in many ways taken over the world of commerce, could be so naïve, and so unprepared.
The decision by Amazon to cancel its plans struck fear in a lot of business and political leaders that other tech companies would decide that New York City is not a place they want to be after all. But so far, nothing like that has appeared to have happened. Google is expanding in New York, as is Facebook.
Outside of work, what tech product are you personally obsessed with?
I spend so much of the day staring at various screens that when I get home, I try to stay away from them as much as possible. Books are a great technology.
That said, I end up spending a lot of time on the Sonos app, mainly because my son, who is 4, is obsessed with the possibilities of Spotify for discovering new music and dancing to it. First it was the K-pop group BTS; now it is “Moana.”
Choosing music is one of the few things he’s allowed to do on my phone, so he really takes it to heart. And now I have the words to the “Moana” soundtrack in my head. (You’re welcome.)