Using Tech Tools to Do Data Reporting


( As a reporter at The Upshot, you use a lot of data to write analysis on gender, families and the future of work. What kind of tech setup do you use to sift through the data for stories?

Claire Cain Miller taking pictures of her children, Tiller Cain, 1, and Auden Cain, 5. She uses tech products for work and family life and says she’s “obsessed with apps that cut down on the time spent doing household chores.” CreditLeah Nash for The New York Times

Much of reporting on data is no different from other reporting, though it includes a little more Excel. It still requires reading, talking to sources and writing (and Twitter).



One thing we’ve been doing at The Upshot is experimenting with the best form for a story, not just defaulting to 1,000 words and a photo. So that has meant making charts, planning art and thinking about layouts for reading on phones and computers.

I recently started using Google Keep for note-taking, and it’s made working much more efficient. I’d tried a lot of note-taking apps but didn’t like any of them, so I used to record random ideas on Post-it notes or by sending myself emails — which usually just led to things getting lost. Now I have notes with titles like “story ideas,” “gender sources” and “books to read,” and can easily access them from anywhere.


Shutterfly or Print Studio allow pictures to be printed directly from the phone. Leah Nash for The New York Times.


You recently wrote an article about raising a feminist son. You point out that while daughters nowadays are told they can be anything they want — astronauts, tomboys and girlie girls — boys are still encouraged to be tough and masculine. In light of this, how do you think you will introduce tech to your sons?

My boys are 5 and 1, so luckily video games haven’t been an issue yet. But I assume we’ll take the same approach we have with other media — screening them for appropriateness, limiting exposure to violence and stereotypes, and offering options with positive messages and role models. Also, having conversations about what they see, because even if they’re not seeing it at home, they’re picking it up everywhere else. Tech and media companies seem to get this. Common Sense Media — whose app I use all the time to find out if movies, apps or books are appropriate — just started rating movies on gender stereotypes.

So far, our oldest son is most into streaming science shows like “Octonauts” and “Planet Earth.” He also just started listening to podcasts for kids, like Wow in the World and Stories Podcast, which is a great alternative to screen time.


“I’m impressed by how fast, affordable and good- looking Keepsake’s framed photos are,” said Claire Cain Miller, a writer for The New York Times.


Beyond your job, what tech products are you currently obsessed with using in your daily life? What do you and your family do with them?

We finally cut the cord last year, and watch TV only with Apple TV and apps. But every night, I wish it were easier to use — I crave a simple guide that shows you where the show you want is available and how to stream it.

We use our iPads mostly as very expensive white noise machines, and in the kitchen for recipes. (NYT Cooking has displaced all my cookbooks lately, especially now that I can save recipes from other sites to my recipe box on the app.)


Ms. Cain Miller and her son Auden, who just started listening to podcasts for children, like Wow in the World and Stories Podcast, which she called “a great alternative to screen time.” Leah Nash for The New York Times


I’ve been lamenting how few pictures ever make it off our phones, so I’ve started printing more straight from my phone with Shutterfly or Print Studio, and ordering framed prints using the Keepsake app. I’m impressed by how fast, affordable and good-looking Keepsake’s framed photos are.

Two kids and two jobs often feels impossible, so I’m obsessed with apps that cut down on the time spent doing household chores. Some of our most-used apps are Instacart for groceries and Caviar and Postmates for food delivery. I used the app religiously for all our household supplies, and I’m still in mourning since Amazon shut it down in April.

Google products have been seeping into more parts of my life — I’ve recently added Keep and Photos, because I tried other services but they’re the best I found. I don’t love the idea of one company having so much visibility into my life (especially as a former Google beat reporter), but this is the constant compromise we make with tech companies.

You wrote about how Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods signaled the replacement of cashiers in retail stores with automated technologies. Would this be a good or a bad thing?

Even if entire occupations might not disappear anytime soon, parts of many jobs will be automated — not just ones we’ve already seen in factories and warehouses but also professional and service jobs. (Just think how much the internet and software have changed our jobs as journalists.)

Often, this is a good thing for businesses and for consumers, who might save money or get things more efficiently, but it has consequences — most urgently for workers who lose their jobs. I don’t hear many people arguing that technological progress, from Amazon or anyone else, should be halted. But I think it’s clear that the workers whose jobs change or disappear need assistance, and that’s an area where public policy can help.


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