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Music magazine editor sees bright future for journalism

Josh Jackson is editor-in-chief of Paste magazine

Josh Jackson is editor-in-chief of Paste magazine

By Brennan Shively
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

In 2002, Josh Jackson and a couple of his friends started a magazine called Paste, which focused on indie music and movies.  Paste, with a website and print publication, was featured in the Chicago Tribune’s list of “50 Best Magazines” at  No. 21.  PLUG Independent Music Awards also named Paste, “Magazine of the Year” in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  In 2008, 2009 and 2010 Paste was nominated for a National Magazine Award in the category of General Excellence.  In August of 2010, Paste ended its printed edition, shifting to a digital version of the magazine, Pastemagazine.com.

Today, Paste averages more than 3 million unique visitors monthly on its website.  The site has more that 146,000 Twitter followers.  Pastemagazine.com also hosts several blogs that Jackson, the editor-in-chief also writes for. In a phone interview, Jackson offered his take on journalism, how it’s evolving and how one can adapt.

Q: Tell me about how you became interested in journalism.

A: Back in high school I started writing for the school’s literary magazine; I started doing some creative writing.  I just really like to tell stories, and journalism seemed to be the way to be able to tell all kinds of people stories.  One of the things I love most about it is that as a journalist you can write about whatever you’re interested in, whereas other professions, you sort of have to pick one area.  With journalism, you kind of go after the whole experience.

Q: Where did you attend school, after high school?

A: University of Georgia.

Q: Did you go to graduate’s school at all?

A: No, I just got my journalism degree there and went off to the workforce.

Q: What other jobs have you held in the journalism industry?  I know you’ve been with Paste since the beginning, and that was in 2002, correct?

A:  Before that I was at a small weekly paper and then went to a nonprofit as a communications director; a nonprofit called The Luke Society that did community health care in Third World countries, so I got to travel around the world. Cool stuff.

Q: With Paste, how did you become the editor-in-chief?

A: By starting it I guess.  We had an idea to launch a music magazine, so we started it on a whim with some friends.  I’d always wanted to do my own magazine and didn’t know any better.  So we gave it a go and just made a magazine we’d want to read and would want to pick up ourselves, and hoped that there were people out there like us who were interested in the stuff we were interested in.

Q: As editor-in-chief, what is a typical day for you?

A: A typical day is – a lot of it’s spent writing and editing.  Writing my stuff, editing other people’s stuff … planning out what we’re going to cover on the website and working with our other editors here.

Q: Is there something you enjoy most about your job?

A: Most enjoy just working with others and really talented people.  Have them use their gifts and abilities the best way, and putting that all together into a package.

Q: Is there anything you dislike about your job?

A: Nothing jumps to mind.  I mean there definitely bad days, and good days, but nothing sticks out.

Q: You have been with Paste since the beginning, and you touched on this a little bit ago, but how did it all start?  You wanted a magazine people wanted to read like you wanted to read.

A: Yeah, we didn’t have money to do a focus group or figure out what market needed to be served with this.  Knew that we loved all kinds of music.  I’d ask what kind of music they liked and find out they had the most eclectic taste in music and that the best music magazines were really focused on a single genre, and I didn’t think anybody really knew — most people experience music.  And, No. 2, they have music magazines that were more generalists, Rolling Stone and Blender seemed to be aimed at teenagers who are into pop music….  I figured there were other adults out there who still loved music and loved movies and loved just finding out about the stuff that was a little more under the radar.  So, we just gathered all that together and pitched a magazine and managed to get it into orders, and the first issue, which was a big break for us.  Once we did that, it was like, ‘OK, we have a real magazine,’ and advertisers started to sign up, and — we had had a website before that so we started with, I think, 600 and some subscribers to the inaugural issue.  So, that kind of helped pay for that first printing and just kind of went from there.

Q: Since the printed edition has been discontinued, have things changed moving to digital?

A: Yeah, with the website, it’s a much broader audience, you know we have a lot more people coming to our website; they’re not the same specific audience that we had with the magazine.  So, (we’re) serving a different kind of audience.

Q: Are there many changes you’ve noticed in the journalism field since you’ve started?

A: Yeah, absolutely, it’s just the job market and, advertising going away for a lot of people.  So, I think a lot of people lost their jobs, and learned how to write —learn how to pitch our own without any resources of a big organization behind you. So you have people doing journalism in all different kinds of ways now, which I think is pretty cool.  Where it’s all sort of falling in place is that, you got lots of different ideas of how to do journalism. That means trying everything and there’s a lot of cool things coming out of it.  It’s changed dramatically since I graduated from college 18 years ago.  But, I think the future is still bright, and I think even through it all, my position was that people will always need writers, and how that’s delivered will continue to change.

Q: You also have your blog High Gravity. What are you favorite topics to blog about?

A: I go in spurts on my personal blog, but I like to blog about the experiences. …There have been some fantastic, some crazy opportunities I’ve had with my job here at Paste, and it’s been fun to write about.  But what’s funny also is Twitter has replaced the need to blog every little thing, just being able share via Twitter.

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