Joshua Eaton

Joshua Eaton is a freelance investigative reporter from Washington, D.C.

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Who are you, and what do you do?

My name’s Joshua Eaton. I’m a freelance investigative reporter based in Washington, D.C. Before going freelance, I was on investigations teams at CQ Roll Call and ThinkProgress, and I worked as a digital producer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting and GBH News.

My recent investigation, with NBC News and Kaiser Health News, found that the U.S. wasted almost 200,000 coronavirus vaccine doses through March 2021 - and the vast majority of that waste was by CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.

My work has also appeared at The Washington Post, ProPublica, The Boston Globe, The Christian Science Monitor, The New Republic, The Daily Beast, FiveThirtyEight, The Intercept and more.

What hardware do you use?

After I was laid off at the beginning of the pandemic and had to ship my work laptop back, I was terrified that my brick of a 2010 MacBook, complete with non-functioning CD/DVD drive, would die and leave me with no computer. So I upgraded to a pre-owned 13.3-inch 2019 MacBook Pro (2.8GHz) - in space gray!

My partner and I made the little dining area in our one-bedroom apartment our shared office. She has a proper desk, and I use our dinner table pushed up against the wall. We got rid of the chairs that came with it, and I bought the cheapest office chair Amazon would sell me - pray that it doesn’t fall apart and kill me mid-FOIA.

I have a 27-inch HP V270 LED monitor that I bought on sale, attached to a WALI Single LCD Monitor Desk Mount. I also have an Omotion vertical laptop stand, but it’s so chunky that it can block the Bluetooth signals from my laptop, so I wish I’d gotten a gotten a different one. I used 3M Command Strips to attach a powered Anker USB-C hub to the back of the monitor. The laptop stand sits next to it, so all I have to do is plug the USB hub in to plug in power and all my peripherals. The Anker hub is OK, but it doesn’t like too many peripherals at once. Again, I wish I’d gotten a better one.

I got really into cable management last year. There’s a cable rack under the desk to hold my power strip and adapters. From there, all the cables run up behind the monitor arm to the USB hub. On top of the desk, I have an Anker wireless phone charging stand where I keep my iPhone while I’m working. All the cables stay hidden under the table and behind the monitor thanks in large part to cable clips.

Another charging cable runs under the desk to a hook where I keep a pair of pre-owned Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-canceling headphones that I absolutely could not live without. I just had to replace the ear pads on them because my glasses made them split, but they’re absolutely worth the upkeep.

On top of the monitor is a Razer Kiyo camera that I hate. It’s designed for PC gamers to stream, so it doesn’t work well at all for Zoom calls on a Mac. There isn’t even good Mac software for it. But it was all I could buy last year. The Logitech C920s webcam I wanted - I’d heard great things about them, and they have a physical privacy shutter - was sold out everywhere last year.

I treated myself to a wireless mechanical keyboard last year - a Keychron K6 with a white backlight and Gateron Brown mechanical switches. I also bought a space grey Apple Magic Mouse 2 to match it. But the same clickity clack that makes me love it so much understandably drives my partner insane. So I’m back to using an ancient Mac external keyboard from 2010 that I inherited from a colleague at ThinkProgress - at least until I’m not working literally next to someone else.

The keyboard and mouse sit on a wool felt desk pad from Grovemade that I’m in love with. I got the matching coasters, too. All of their stuff is so gorgeous, and I’d own a lot more if I didn’t make freelance reporter money.

I’d read great things about the Brother HL-L2350DW monochrome laser printer, but you couldn’t buy one during the height of the pandemic. So I got a Xerox B210DNI monochrome laser printer instead, and I’m really pleased with it so far. It sits on top of two watertight file boxes where I store real, honest-to-god hanging file folders with old story notes, annotated printouts of reports, snail-mail correspondence from government agencies about public-records requests and old reporter’s notebooks.

Speaking of reporter’s notebooks, I haven’t found one I love. The ones by Portage and Tops that you’ll find stacks of in most newsrooms don’t hold up to what a working reporter will put them through. Stationers, Inc., in Richmond, Va., sells what it says is the original reporter’s notebook. I ordered several over the phone last year. The cover is much thicker than the cheap Portage and Tops ones. But the ruling is way too wide, and the wire binding at the top is still flimsy. Companies like Write and Field Notes make gorgeous reporter’s notebooks, but they’re too expensive and precious to be useful to actual, working journalists.

Apparently another reporter has been working on designing a better reporter’s notebook, and I’m really excited to try it out. I don’t want to scoop them, so I’ll leave it at that.

Amazon sells these little elastic loops with an adhesive backing that you can stick onto a notebook to hold a pen. I can’t recommend them enough.

Everyone makes fun of me for this, but they sell notebooks you can keep business cards in, and I swear by them. When I get someone’s card, I write down when and where we met and put it in the notebook. I keep mine in chronological order, because it’s usually easier for me to remember where I met someone than what their name was. I can’t tell you how many times this has come in handy for a story.

For pens, I just got some 0.5 mm Muji gel ink ballpoint pens in blue-black to replace the 0.38 mm Muji pens I had in black. I mean, if you can use a pen with blue-black ink, why on Earth wouldn’t you? I like to print stories out and do a final proofread on paper before they publish - I almost always spot something this way - so I got pens in red, too.

I also picked up some Zebra Mildliners markers in muted yellow and blue tones at a stationary story in D.C. a couple of years ago. I love using them as highlighters. They stand out just as well, but the colors are actually nice to look at.

Paper thank-you notes! I use whatever they sell at CVS. Send one to a source along with your business card after a meeting, and they won’t forget you.

Finally, I use a physical security key for two-factor authentication.

And what software?

Almost everything I do happens in Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Sheets and Dropbox. I have an elaborate system of spreadsheets, Drive/Dropbox folders and Gmail labels that helps keep me organized. I also use a password manager, but I’m not going to say which one.

I’m an extreme night owl, so I really like that Gmail lets me write emails late at night and schedule them to send first thing in the morning. I’ve been trying out a third-party desktop and mobile Gmail app called Superhuman that is visually gorgeous and has all sorts of automation and keyboard shortcuts that have gotten me closer to Inbox Zero than I’ve been in years. I love it so far, but it’s not cheap. I’m very divided on whether the cost is worth it.

I recently switched from Chrome back to Mozilla Firefox after a long exile, mostly for privacy reasons. I use several privacy add-ons, including HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery, Privacy Badger and Multi-Account Containers. Really, I just follow The Markup’s advice.

I also use the Pocket add-on so I can lie and tell myself that I’ll read things later. Sure, Joshua.

I tend to use different Firefox windows for different projects/purposes, so I don’t have one big window with 10,000 open tabs. The Window Titler add-on lets me title those windows so I can find the one I’m looking for when I control-click Firefox down in the dock.

I was using a free Spotify account, but I’m listening to the same lofi beats 99.9% of the time anyway. So now I just play music in a dedicated YouTube window. I get way, way, way fewer ads that way.

Freedom is one of my favorite apps. It won’t let me check Twitter or CNN before 2 p.m. or after midnight, which might make it my truest friend.

I use the TapeACall app to record phone interviews and Rev to transcribe them. But I don’t trust call recording apps, and I’m always about two second from buying an Olympus TP-8 telephone pick-up microphone and a digital recorder.

I don’t have a scanner, so I use the Adobe Scan app on my phone. I also have Adobe Acrobat Pro DC for doing things like OCR, combining and editing PDFs and signing contracts. A lot of my stories rely on public records, and PDF is by far the government’s favorite file format. It’s also really useful for job applications.

For secure communications, I use ProtonMail and Signal.

My website is built with WordPress, the Freedom theme and a Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate.

I just use Twitter in the browser like a heathen.

What would be your dream setup?

The actual mechanics of my job don’t require anything fancy. But I really want one of those big, curved external monitors. They’re just so gorgeous. A better USB hub and camera and maybe a different laptop stand would be nice too. So would some proper filing cabinets and an e-reader that actually handles PDFs well. Also, I really want an old-school police scanner. They’re shockingly expensive.

What I’d really, really, really love is my own little home office, complete with a cat and an armchair in the corner. If we’re talking about dream office setups, I can go down the rabbit hole. I’ve never been a gamer, but I spent way too much time on r/battlestations last year, which I wouldn’t recommend to anyone who doesn’t want to ruin their credit score.

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Daniel Bogan

Daniel Bogan is a web developer from Melbourne, Australia. Currenly working as a developer at Buildkite, and running an interview website Uses This.

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