Jeanette Beebe. Photo by Kyo Morishima
For this installment of A Typical Workday, I interviewed independent journalist, fact-checker and radio/podcast reporter and producer Jeanette Beebe, who covers science, medicine and technology with a focus on social issues. Beebe’s reporting has appeared in Time, Scientific American, Popular Science, The Christian Science Monitor, Consumer Reports, Medscape, Fast Company and other outlets.
Her work as a freelance field producer and recordist has been broadcast by the BBC, Gimlet Media and NPR, and she fact checks for various podcasts and magazines, including Scientific American.
(This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
I’m based in Akron, Ohio, which is about 40 minutes from Cleveland. I am lucky enough to have a home office. It’s on the second floor, and there’s some green space that I can see outside of my window. We’re smack dab in the middle of the Highland Square neighborhood, which is kind of part-nature, part-city, which I really like.
We bought the house last summer, and it’s a historic house. It has this really lovely antique wallpaper of ivy, from decades past, with paneling. It’s a soothing background for work. I have my desk, a couch, my little exercise bike that folds up and my big bookshelves.
I go to bed late, and then I get up late. I have breakfast, feed the dog and get to work probably about 11:30 am. I’ll work until about 5 p.m., when my husband usually gets home. From 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. is our time, which means dinner, going out with friends or going out to do something. And when he’s winding down to bed, I’ll head into my office again for my night shift from 9:30 p.m. to about 1:30 a.m. That’s what I call it, my night shift, which is so precious to me. That’s when I do a lot of my creative work — I’m also a poet — and writing for any feature stories I’m working on. My most productive time is nighttime, which is one of the reasons I’ve been a freelancer for so long.
I drink a lot of water, a lot of water. And I also like seeing my dog and my cats.
Maybe this is just a dumb answer, but I don’t care if I don’t focus at all times. If I’m distracted, it’s not by stuff on my computer. It’s more like I’m fading, like I’m sleepy, and I lean into it. I love being a freelancer so much because it lets me work in ways that if I’m inspired, I can really lean into it. And if I’m distracted, I can, within reason, let my mind be distracted.
Favorite break activity
It has been meditation. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. You don’t have to sit on a cushion and have your posture be just so. It’s mostly just watching your breath and paying attention to where breath is and where your mind is and watching it. And if it goes somewhere else, observing that and then gently directing it back.
Tracking story ideas and assignments
I use Google Calendar for my deadlines, and I look at the calendar on my phone and on my computer every day. I used to be really into organizational systems, but those seem to be more trouble than they’re worth. I usually have only four work assignments at a time — a fact-checking assignment, a radio or audio assignment, a print or digital assignment, and then sometimes there’s something else. It works well to put the deadlines in a calendar.
I’m not really organized when it comes to keeping track of story ideas. I’m looking at my bookshelf, and there’s just piles of paper.
Favorite tool or app
It’s a waterproof notepad called AquaNotes that you can put in the shower. It also comes with a pencil that can get wet. It’s incredible, and I use that all the time. I use it for my poetry and for story ideas. Actually, that would be a good story: Why do people get inspired in the shower?
Recording and transcribing interviews
I do all my phone interviews using Skype, with a third party app called Call Recorder. The app automatically records the call and not just that; it records both ends of the conversation on different tracks. That’s really helpful for podcasting and radio and audio production because I don’t need to hear my questions. I just want to hear the clips from the other person. I also use a program called Descript. It does AI transcription and much more. It’s almost like a full-fledged audio editor. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in doing video or podcasting.
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