Name: Amy Phillips
Job Title and Description: Senior Editor, News at Pitchfork Media
College/Major: Columbia University/American studies
Twitter Handle: @pitchforkmedia
What does your current job entail? Is there such a thing as a typical day?
Amy Phillips: I run the news section of Pitchfork, one of the world's leading music websites. My job is to assign, edit and occasionally write news stories, as well as promote our content on social media. My day is spent editing and assigning, as well as looking for news and working with labels and publicists on stories. I spend pretty much the entire time bouncing between email, Twitter, RSS feeds and our internal content management system.
What is the best part of your job?
AP: I've always been a big fan who obsessively kept up with what was going on in the music world. Getting paid to do exactly that is a dream come true. The nature of my job means that it never gets boring; there's always something new and exciting going on.
What was your first entry-level job in your field and how did you get it?
AP: My first jobs were internships during college. The first one was at the Philadelphia City Paper during the summer after my freshman year. I got it by sending them clips of my writing from my college paper. After that, I interned at the Village Voice and CMJ Magazine. I also worked at the record store Kim's in Manhattan (It's now closed.)
What is one thing you wish you knew about your industry when you first started out that you know now?
AP: I first started getting paid to write about music in 2000. We all knew that the Internet was going to bring changes to the publishing industry; we just didn't realize how drastic it was going to be. Most of the newspapers and magazines I used to write for are gone now. Most of the jobs I applied for when I was starting out don't exist anymore. I wish I hadn't let myself get so worked up about the jobs I didn't get.
Who is one person who changed your professional life for the better?
AP: There have been so many! Chuck Eddy, the former music editor at the Village Voice, who took a chance on my writing and me. Ann Powers, the legendary rock critic, who supported and encouraged me. Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber and former Editor-in-Chief Scott Plagenhoef, who hired me at Pitchfork eight years ago. Mark Richardson, Pitchfork's current Editor-in-Chief, who is a wonderful leader and even better writer.
But the person I'd really like to highlight is Dan DeLuca, music critic at ThePhiladelphia Inquirer. In eighth grade, our school had a career day in which each eighth grader shadowed an adult whose career they were interested in for a day of work to see what it was like on the job. Dan very, very kindly let me tag along at his office, and then took me to a Foo Fighters concert he was reviewing. That was the day that I knew that I wanted to be a music writer.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
AP: "Don't read the comments" and "don't feed the trolls" are essential words to live by if you work on the Internet in any kind of elevated public platform.
What is one mistake you made along the way and what did you learn from it?
AP: For so much of my 20s, I put work first, at the expense of everything else in my life. And while I know that working hard is essential to getting ahead and meeting your career goals, there has to be a balance. In my 30s, I've learned to take more time for my relationships and myself. Not only has it made me happier, but it's made me a better worker and a better boss.
What has been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?
AP: Interviewing Björk in Iceland with less than 24 hours’ notice. I met her in a café near her house. She was wearing an amazing, outrageous, multicolored, rainbow-striped knit outfit. Nobody else in the café seemed to notice or care. I guess Björk sitting there in a crazy outfit is a regular occurrence to them.
What do you look for when considering hiring someone?
AP: It might look easy to an outsider, but writing Pitchfork news is very hard. You have to be a master of both speed and accuracy. It's very difficult to find writers who can both write quickly and get all of the facts straight. In addition to that, the people we hire need to be reliable, willing to work off hours and very, very knowledgeable about contemporary music. They also have to be constantly keeping up with what's going on in the music world.
What advice would you give to a 20-something with similar aspirations?
AP: Don't rely on any job in the music-writing world as being a guarantee. It is very, very unlikely that you will find work writing about music full time. As I mentioned before, the number of publications paying people to write about music has shrunk dramatically in the past decade since I started out. Diversify your interests and skills; do something else while writing about music on the side. Start a Tumblr to showcase your writing. Do a lot of freelancing. Make a lot of connections. Listen to everything you can and read everything you can.