You and your team at the Times have created many beautiful, informative and distinguished pieces. Which piece are you most proud of?
A lot of my work in the early 2010s was writing about people as a trend in the data, not connecting the data to individual stories. I’m most proud of the moments I found opportunities to break this mold and really push the boundaries of cartography and geography I’d normally be working within. The piece that springs foremost to mind was on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. A colleague and I went to Houston and rented the biggest car we could find to get through the flooded roads; we flew drones and took images over the course of several days. We were talking directly with people experiencing the crisis wherever we could, and seeing it for ourselves. It’s not surprising that just changed the tone and method of the reporting.
Somewhat adorably, you have the distinction of being interviewed by Cricket, the children's magazine.
Cricket Magazine carries special meaning for me. I struggled with learning disabilities growing up, including dyslexia and short term memory issues that made it hard to read. My parents were super patient and would encourage me to try different types of reading at my own pace. I gravitated toward Cricket and Highlights and other magazines like them. Then, a few years ago, an editor from Cricket called and asked to interview me about modern maps and mapping, and it truly brought a tear to my eye because Cricket was full of my childhood heroes, and now I could give back to the publication that meant so much to me.
Mapping the news requires you to be in dynamic, high pressure situations. Things can't always go smoothly. Tell me about ‘that one time’ things went really wrong.
Another line of our convention coverage was more serious. We wanted to cover the anatomy of a daylong protest space. So, I found a property owner who was willing to let us set up a timelapse camera on his roof overlooking the Cleveland Public Square. We also—and this is crucial—checked with authorities about off-limits areas. This rooftop was in an area of the city not cordoned off by security, so we were technically in the clear.
But as soon as I took a look at the view we had, I was nervous that the security situation could change. I repeatedly shared my nerves with Alicia. She was admirably chill about the whole thing, insisting that I worried too much.
Sure enough, though, when the time came to check on the camera, someone on the ground got spooked by a glimpse of us on the roof, alerted law enforcement and within minutes we were swarmed by 8 or so police officers.
Thankfully, after we dismantled the camera setup, it all ended amicably. The view up there was beautiful, and Alicia even took a group photo of the officers on one of their phones.
This is one of my favorite professional memories because it was the culmination of a day of me saying "I wonder if we could get in trouble" and Alicia pushing back "Gee you worry a lot, lol."
We were both right.