Puja Patel’s Pitchfork Work Diary: ‘Our Staffers Decidedly Own the Dance Floor’

Puja Patel listens to plenty of music. The quantity has gotten so overwhelming since she was named editor in chief of Pitchfork, she’s needed to create a system to handle all of it. “I’ve decided to keep my new vinyl purchases to things that I know I’ll keep for the rest of my life,” Ms. Patel stated. She places unreleased albums right into a folder on iTunes and streams the whole lot else on Spotify. She additionally acquired an outdated iPod Touch to make use of solely for work, however that turned out to be fruitless when she discovered it wasn’t appropriate with the newest MacBook.

Pitchfork, with its authoritatively decimalized album rating system, is one in all the most influential music publications in the United States. A good ranking has the energy to propel a below-the-radar artist into the mainstream, whereas a destructive one can sink a widely known performer’s newest effort. “As someone who was obsessively reading the site in college, to imagine running it one day was absurd,” Ms. Patel, 33, stated. “And now that I’m here, it feels extremely powerful and correct.”

A baby of immigrants — her father was from Zimbabwe and her mom is from India — Ms. Patel labored for quite a lot of shops, together with Fader, The Village Voice and MTV, earlier than becoming a member of Pitchfork. “My specialty was actually exhibiting that music was about group,” she stated. “And how music is an immediate reflection of the tensions of a city, whether that be political or social, or even the way that tech was changing and inducing the way a genre moved.” In 2016, she was named editor in chief of Spin — turning into one in all the few ladies to guide a big music publication — and he or she reveled in the alternative to push its boundaries.

Pitchfork was based in 1996 and purchased by Condé Nast in 2015. The Pitchfork Review, the web site’s quarterly journal, was shut down two years later, and final September Condé Nast requested Ms. Patel to take over from Ryan Schreiber, Pitchfork’s founder and longtime editor. We spoke in March, as she was producing the publication’s first “digital cover.”

6 a.m. I’ve this obnoxious tendency to get up early in the morning and beat my alarm. I couldn’t sleep as a result of I used to be occupied with our digital cowl story, which I used to be up late enhancing with our options editor. It’s about the singer Sky Ferreira. I eventually open up the story to see what tweaks were made and do some tweaking of my own. It covers some sensitive subject matter — like her friendship with Michael Jackson when she was a kid — so I think all of us are trying to take some care with how we deliver that.

7:30 a.m. Log into Slack and see that the singer Scott Walker has died. I talk to a news editor and assign an obit. As a music fan, I think one of the really difficult parts of the job is tabling your sadness and grief to be able to react and inform your readers as quickly as possible.

10:30 a.m. Staff meeting. We talk about Scott Walker, and our managing editor updates us on what to keep an eye out for today. I bring up our launch party, which is on Wednesday night, and gently remind the staff to be on their best behavior. I like these meetings — it’s useful for the staff, and it’s nice checking in with everyone, since we have so many sprawling parts of the magazine and all that comes with Condé Nast.

1:30 p.m. More party prep. I’m answering all kinds of questions like: Is this person on the guest list? What artwork should we display? Can you approve these finances? Can we get approval on this partnership thing? These things pop up all day, and I forget how much time they take up. It comes with the territory of being the editor.

3 p.m. I realize I haven’t written my editor’s letter, which is set to run tomorrow at 8 a.m.

4:30 p.m. I started blocking off this hour on my calendar without telling everyone why. I let everyone believe I’m in a meeting so I can do things like write my letter or check up on emails.

9:30 p.m. Running on fumes and finally writing my editor’s letter. (I take breaks to cook dinner, chat with my cousin and try on some clothes that I had ordered online.) The question I get most frequently from reporters and friends is what it feels like to be a woman in charge of a publication that’s been helmed by men until now. I try to speak to that in my letter.

12 a.m. Everything has been filed, typos and final copy-edits have been made. It’s time for bed.

6 a.m. Woke up before the alarm again. Text my mom and brother good morning, and scroll through my international family WhatsApp group thread. There are 30-plus people on it, and it regularly shifts from family updates to Gujarati or Hindi memes or videos.

7 a.m. Make scrambled eggs and check in with editors to make sure we’re set for the cover story rollout.

8 a.m. The cover story is live! I’m so happy that it’s finally out. I’m honestly a little emotional and very proud of how so many people, who hadn’t previously worked together, collaborated to make this come to fruition. Big projects like these always create trust and excitement about what else we can do as a staff — it’s a good sign of what’s to come.

12:30 p.m. I pop in to say hello to Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones and ask about a Condé meeting scheduled for later today. (We moved floors recently and now share our space with her magazine and Wired.) We end up chatting for 30 minutes.

3:30 p.m. One of two weekly reviews meetings, where we go over our album review schedule, scoring, Best New Music designations and assignments. This is usually the easiest or knottiest meeting of the week, depending on the releases and how strongly the editors in the room feel about them. We try to have at least four people on staff listen to every album reviewed before landing on a precise score. Today, two editors have differing opinions on the score of a smaller album, and we talk about some existential issues with scoring against the legacy opinions of Pitchfork past.

6:30 p.m. Left the office earlier than usual because I need to eat dinner and figure out what to wear to tomorrow’s party. Make a salad and throw a quarter of my closet onto my bed, land on two or three things that could work and kick myself for always procrastinating on shopping.

8:30 p.m. Meet up with an old music friend at Zablozki’s in Williamsburg. We talk about the surge of reporting on sexism and assault in music — the journalist’s duty to the story, and then how women at labels and PR firms do their own reporting and assessments from within.

9:15 p.m. Head across the street to National Sawdust to see Yves Tumor, an experimental electronic musician who has played an after-party for Pitchfork Paris and our Chicago Midwinter event, a music festival in partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago.

9:45 p.m. Pitchfork is hosting an event with Tidal down the street at Music Hall of Williamsburg for Women’s History Month. I drag my label friend with me with the hopes of seeing the duo Girlpool, but we miss them, unfortunately.

10:30 p.m. In a cab home, texting with Pitchfork’s publicist. She tells me an on-camera interview scheduled for tomorrow got moved. I’m thrilled — one less thing to think about.

7 a.m. It’s a normal morning, which means I can spend the first few hours of my day listening to music and albums we’re slated to review.

1:30 p.m. My weekly meeting with Anna Wintour, the creative director of Condé Nast. Anna is a sounding board on anything big or small. We talk about everything: new developments on major editorial plans for the site, design updates, artists who are releasing new music, ideas around covers, the staff, navigating every kind of business change or hurdle while being true to the site’s spirit and point of view.

3:30 p.m. Head out of the office early to meet my mom and brother, who are in town from Baltimore. I spend the travel time going over the syllabus and reading materials of a New York University journalism class I’m speaking at tomorrow.

4:15 p.m. My mom and I get blowouts for the party. I lost my dad to lung cancer a little over a year ago, which was unexpected and sudden and has been very hard on all of us, especially my mom. Sometimes I wonder if I stay so busy so that I don’t let my mind wander into the deep sadness that comes every time I think about him. I miss him every day, and especially during times of celebration.

6:20 p.m. Arrive at Kinfolk for the party. The venue is covered in images and video from the cover shoot and it looks amazing. Events like this always move in a blur, but some highlights: Nancy and Rayna from LCD Soundsystem DJ. Anna Wintour chats with my mom for a while, and it brings me so much joy to see these two singular women in my life in conversation. Sky Ferreira and I talk about the release of her new single and what it feels like to have something new out after so long. The band Empath and two of our staffers decidedly own the dance floor.

9:30 p.m. The staff moves down the street to the Turkey’s Nest after the party. Everyone has their biggest smiles on. I want to take a snapshot of the moment and commit it to memory forever.

12:30 p.m. My mom and brother come to our office at 1 World Trade Center for lunch. It’s nice to be able to show them what I do and where I work, especially since online media is an unconventional career path in some ways. The view from the office helps, too.

3 p.m. Weekly senior editorial meeting with team leads.

7:30 p.m. At N.Y.U.’s Bobst library to speak to students at the Clive Davis Institute about “Race, Gender, and Music Writing” for a class on writing about popular music. The students are great. They’re avid readers of Pitchfork and big music fans, and they ask sharp and very specific questions about our editorial process and where we fit in the digital media landscape. This is my favorite part of the day, easily. It reaffirms that, in a different life, I’d like to be a teacher.

9:15 p.m. The professor of the class is the executive editor of Billboard and a friendly acquaintance. We decide to grab some sushi at Lure Fishbar and catch up on industry gossip and media news before calling it a night.

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