This is a big question that touches on some things I think about a lot and I feel like I could write a book on it. But it’s a book very few people would read so I think I’ll just reply here.
I think about this general question and the sub-questions nested inside of it from a few different angles. As best as I can do late at night here before going to bed, it breaks down like this:
I’m a human being with feelings, so I am as susceptible as anyone else to criticism of our work. Since I am the editor-in-chief of Pitchfork, I take ultimate responsibility for everything that appears on the site. This doesn’t mean that I’m closely involved with everything that appears on the site, or that I agree with every opinion, not by a long shot. But at the end of the day, if there is anyone to blame for something substandard being on the site, it’s me. That is part of my job description. So by definition, I can’t help but take criticism of Pitchfork personally. If you are now or are in the future charged with editing a magazine that publishes 10k words a day involving 50+ freelancers and 10+ full-time staff people, perhaps you will empathize with me on this point: it’s not easy. There is so much to cover, so many ways to hear things, and trying to pull it all together and make it coherent and also entertaining and useful is very challenging. But also, of course, very rewarding. I feel nothing but gratitude. That I make a living with this and work with such amazing people and my job is to think about music—come on. I have had a lot of jobs in my life and this is one of the good ones.
So on one hand, the negativity does get to me. I’m not someone who loves to be in charge of “the site you love to hate,” or whatever. Just not who I am. My deepest desire with Pitchfork is for the site to report on and offer a critical perspective on the world of music as we see it, and do so in an entertaining and rigorous way. That is the ideal, and we may not always get there but we’re trying.
While some of that negativity might bum me out, I understand all of it. For one, we’re in the business of criticism, and that’s a two-way street. We dish it out, saying what we think, and it would be ridiculous to not expect criticism in return. That is part of the deal, so having a thick skin is a must. But more than that, to engage with music critically and not be ready for readers to engage with our work critically would actually be doing the entire idea of critical engagement a disservice. That it happens is healthy, and in fact it’s important; we’re a small part of a much larger idea.
The second part of it is that we’ve done well enough and been lucky enough to be in a position of importance as far as the idea of music criticism. That brings with it responsibility. We need to be sure that we’re using our position to the best of our abilities and doing things with it of which we can be proud. It needs to be honored. And it also brings with it scrutiny. People pay attention to Pitchfork, even if they are pushing against it, and being on the receiving end of criticism given that is a great privilege. Any time someone wishes we would do better is a sign of hope or of a certain amount of belief. There are any number of publications where no one cares at all what they think and the fact that people do care makes us one of the lucky ones. Along with everyone else at Pitchfork, I really want to live up to that, to be worthy of the attention.