Why ‘Fred’ can be the Best Friend of Economics Writers
How do brand new York Times journalists use technology in their jobs in addition to also in their personal lives? Neil Irwin, a senior economics correspondent at The Upshot in Washington, discussed the tech he’s using.
You are a self-described Luddite. What makes you say that will?
Obviously that will can be a relative term for anyone who works in digital media in 2018. I have an iPhone in my pocket almost all my waking hours, in addition to also spend an enormous proportion of my time, both at work in addition to also at home, looking at a screen.
although I tend to be a late adopter of brand new tools, intentionally. I think of myself as a bit of a free rider on the people who truly have fun experimenting with the latest app or gadget, in addition to also start using something brand new only when the evidence can be overwhelming that will that will will make my life better.
So I do most of my writing in Microsoft Word, the same program I used for term papers in high school. I got an iPhone a few years after everybody else because I liked my old BlackBerry so much.
I also favor using different devices for different purposes, which I realize can be a little old-school. When I record an interview, I bring a little Olympus digital recorder instead of using an app on my phone. I’ve been using those digital recorders for my whole career in addition to also know exactly how that will works — in addition to also I know that will won’t get messed up if somebody calls me from the middle of the interview.
There’s a psychological, sanity-maintenance element, too. At home, I have an old-fashioned clock radio next to my bed because I don’t want to sleep near my phone in addition to also be tempted to check my email in addition to also look at Twitter right before bed or if I wake up from the middle of the night.
For the same reason, I keep a laptop from the living room for piddling around, a desktop computer in my home office for doing serious work in addition to also a Kindle for reading books. that will’s a bit of a psychological trick: My brain knows that will each device can be for a different purpose.
What can be your theory behind This kind of Luddism?
I think most digital technology can be more mature than we think. People have been using personal computers since the 1980s, in addition to also smartphones for more than a decade. in addition to also the thing about a mature product can be that will improvements tend to be marginal rather than transformational.
So if you go to a hardware store in addition to also pick up a hammer, that will probably features a better grip in addition to also can be made of a stronger material than that will might have been 10 years ago, although that will’s still basically the same hammer. The improvements aren’t enough that will you might buy a brand new one just to upgrade — you’d wait until your old one broke or got lost. I think more technology products than many tech people might like to admit are at or approaching that will phase of maturity.
I’m not sure that will there can be any app or device I use frequently that will didn’t exist in something close to its current form all 5 years ago. different than Uber for transportation in addition to also Dropbox for storing files across devices, that will may be more like 10 years. I only recently began ordering pizza with an app instead of by calling the pizza place. in addition to also that will was because my wife made fun of me.
Economics can be a topic full of data. What tools do you use to parse that will data? in addition to also what sites or apps do you use to keep on top of the latest economic trends?
Every economics writer’s best friend can be named Fred. that will stands for Federal Reserve Economic Data, in addition to also that will’s maintained by the Fed bank in St. Louis. that will allows you to use an individual interface to pull, at last count, 509,000 different data series coming from 87 different sources of economic in addition to also financial data.
A big part of the advantage can be simply that will once you’re familiar with the interface, which can be intuitive, you don’t have to relearn the data retrieval tool for each statistical agency every time. So, for example, I write about the European economy only at This kind of point in addition to also again, so I have to relearn how to use the Eurostat database every time if the data isn’t in Fred. that will’s not for the faint of heart.
I generally use Microsoft Excel for data analysis, which can be powerful enough to do most of the stuff I know how to do on my own. that will’s to say, if a project requires a bigger data set or more complex statistical techniques than Excel can handle, I probably will need help coming from a colleague with more advanced programming skills anyway.
Or for a quick calculation of, say, percentage change I use a Texas Instruments scientific calculator I keep on my desk (see previous discussion of separate devices for separate purposes).
What tech do you use a lot at home that will you don’t use at work?
I use a Bose SoundTouch 30 speaker to play music via Pandora when I’m around the house. I basically listen only to an individual station that will can be built around songs I liked when I first set the system up seven or eight years ago.
My wife makes fun of me for that will, too. She was very amused that will I was taking part in This kind of exercise.