Music critic and editor Jessica Hopper on her departure from Pitchfork


  • Courtesy Featherproof Books
  • Jessica Hopper

Yesterday Jessica Hopper announced that Wednesday had been her last day as an employee of recently Condé Nast-isized multimedia music conglomerate Pitchfork, where she'd been a senior editor for the website and editor in chief of print quarterly The Pitchfork Review since October 2014.
She elaborated a little on why and on what might be next, but not much.
Hopper and I have known each other for ages—since long before she worked for Pitchfork or I worked for the Reader—and she hired me to write a music-book-review column for the Review. (I've contributed to the past six issues.) When I reached out to her yesterday, she told me, "Things like my Bjork interview for Pitchfork presented a lot of opportunities and offers for me both personally and professionally. A lot of doors opened, and I said no to a lot of things because I have loved working at Pitchfork—editing The Pitchfork Review was very much my dream job. But I was offered some things that I could not say no to. I am staying in Chicago, taking a break after a grueling year, working on my [new] book—and then off to the thing that is next."

She also reiterated her point about the doors that had opened because of the success of her second book, published earlier this year by Chicago imprint Featherproof: The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic compiles reviews, feature stories, and interviews that span her career, including a dozen pieces originally published in the Reader and dating back to 2004. (Hopper also wrote the bite-size music-news column Gossip Wolf with me from 2010, when the Reader launched it, till 2012.) Over the past year she's begun a series of very necessary public conversations, both on Twitter and in her appearances at music conferences such as Australia's Bigsound, about the marginalization, mistreatment, and often naked aggression that women, people of color, and LGBT-identified people encounter in pretty much every aspect of the music industry, whether they're fans, performers, critics, or folks working at nightclubs or other venues.

Not surprisingly, much of Hopper's time at Pitchfork was spent turning the blog the Pitch into a crucial destination, especially for readers interested in writers skilled at detailing perspectives from within marginalized communities and how those perspectives have shaped their musical tastes. Her tenure at the Pitch included an obvious move away from listicles or Modest Mouse deep dives and toward essays and first-person editorials about gender, sexuality, race, and disability rights in the music scene. Considering Pitchfork's fame as a news and record-review hub—certain to be redoubled via its recent boost of corporate mass-media firepower—we can only hope that this trend toward diversity continues despite Hopper's departure.

In the acknowledgements at the end of First Collection, Hopper refers to me as her "best friend"—which is definitely true—and "DFW for the last 15-ish years"—which is mostly true. (I am down for many things, but not all of them.) What I can’t dispute is that I’ve seen her grow as a critical thinker, writer, and editor by leaps and bounds since we first met—when I hounded her via e-mail to let me write record reviews for her punk fanzine Hit It or Quit It. Since that day, I’ve felt lucky to have borne witness to her striking success at fulfilling her urgent desire to open platforms to the previously voiceless and tell stories for those afraid or unable to speak for themselves. She's also made me think about established artists—Nirvana, M.I.A., Lana Del Rey—in new and surprising ways. I hope the “thing that is next” for Jessica Hopper arrives with great haste.

Though Pitchfork hasn't officially commented about Hopper's departure, a few of her colleagues from the company tweeted hosannas and best wishes:
On behalf of the Reader, I'd like to add mine to the list.

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