How do New York Times journalists use technology in their jobs and in their personal lives? Adam Satariano, a technology correspondent based in London, discussed the tech he’s using.
You reported from the United States before moving to London. How has your tech setup changed?
I moved to London three years ago, and the biggest change has been how to communicate with colleagues, family and friends.
It’s hard for many Americans to grasp how pervasive WhatsApp, the messaging app owned by Facebook, is outside the United States. I’m in family groups on WhatsApp for sharing photos of my kids, another with friends called “Steve Kerr 2020” to banter about Bay Area sports, and others for news about my sons’ elementary school classes. One group, called “Anybody Fancy a Pint,” is just for friends in my neighborhood in London to use if one of us is going to a local pub and seeking company.
This isn’t unique to living in Europe, but I’m laughably reliant on Google Maps. I invariably end up being that annoying person on the street staring down at my phone doing circles to figure out which direction to go.
Sure, I worry about privacy and the ungodly amount of data that Google collects, but it feels like a fair trade when I’m lost or navigating a new place. I bookmark restaurants, bookstores and cafes that I want to visit or remember for a future trip. (Product suggestion: Google, please add a way to write notes for saved locations in Maps.)
On the road, I also use a debit card from Revolut that you can top up with money through an app and doesn’t have foreign transaction fees.
With the G.D.P.R. and other regulations, Europe has been tough on tech companies when it comes to digital privacy. How is that affecting the internet and apps in Europe?
The biggest difference for the average person is the comical number of notifications you receive when visiting a website or signing up for a new online service. A key part of the General Data Protection Regulation is that people must be given detailed information about the data being collected about them. But it’s overload. I feel ground into submission. Most people I know express annoyance more than gratitude about the law.
That said, there are changes below the surface that people are benefiting from.
One aspect of the law I’d love to see made easier to use is letting people ask a company to turn over all the data it has on them. It’s currently not an easy or inviting process. When I asked a few companies for information, the data that came back wasn’t complete or comprehensive.
Why do Europeans seem to care about digital privacy so much more than Americans?
There isn’t a unified view on privacy across Europe. Citizens of a country like Germany put a priority on privacy for unique historical reasons. Yet in Britain, where there is more surveillance than in probably any other Western country, people don’t seem to be overly concerned.
In general, people view privacy the way they do in the United States: The amount of data collected by the likes of Facebook and Google makes them somewhat uncomfortable, but not enough to stop using Google or Instagram. I hear much more concern about the amount of time we’re spending staring at screens.
What technology do you use that helps you do your job as a tech reporter?
My setup needs an upgrade.
I was in Paris recently for a news conference, and a reporter at a different news publication pulled out a keyboard that wirelessly connected to an iPhone that he placed in an impressive-looking stand. He also had an audio-recording app called AudioNote that synced with the notes he was typing. By clicking on a word within his notes, he could jump to that part of the audio recording to check the exact wording of a comment.
As I was rummaging through my notes, I was seething with envy picturing him efficiently writing a finely crafted story.
This is a safe space, so I’ll admit that I have organizing issues. I have notes scattered in paper notebooks, email draft folders, Google Docs, Evernote, Word and the Notes program on my MacBook. I have at least three different “story ideas” files. There is a method to the madness, I swear, but I am constantly panicking that I lost a quote, an anecdote or a phone number. It’s an affliction. The Times needs somebody on staff who can Marie Kondo my digital work life.
Outside of work, what tech product are you personally obsessed with, and what do you do with it?
This isn’t really tech, but I’m a devotee of Parker pens. They write smoothly and fit easily in my pocket, but aren’t so expensive that I feel bad losing one.
I’m also always looking for a better backpack. I have one made by a company called Knomo in London that has a good mix of space for a laptop and other stuff, but could use extra compartments and more comfortable shoulder pads. Instagram serves me a constant stream of backpack ads, and I don’t even mind.
There are a few apps that I can’t live without. One is The Athletic. In Europe, it’s hard to keep up with American sports, but The Athletic hired some of the best sportswriters in the Bay Area to cover my favorite teams. The subscription isn’t cheap, but it’s the best digital twist on a newspaper sports page that I’ve seen.
I use Twitter an unhealthy amount, but I’ve started deleting it on weekends.
My favorite app is Spotify. I’m listening constantly. I have a playlist called “Sunday Morning” that I’ve been curating for years and love — even if my wife jokingly calls it “music that makes you want to kill yourself.”