Fear and Listings in Philadelphia

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Philadelphia City Paper July 19, 2001. As a former Listings Editor myself, I can 100% identify. — Margit

Lots of people ask me, “What’s it like to be a listings editor?” I tell them it’s sort of like being shot into a cannon every day.

Other people ask me, “What does a listings editor do?” I hate people.

The short answer is this: All week long I get press releases and calendars from local galleries, rock venues, artists, musicians, comedy clubs, hospitals, rodeo planners, fetishists, support groups, cat lovers, etc. My crafty fleet of interns and I sort the press releases into little piles and type them into humorless little summaries. Then something magic happens when I sleep and the listings show up in the paper.

But this hardly explains my job here. To help you see the world through the Listings Editor’s eyes, I decided to keep a log of a typical day in my professional life.

Mon., July 9, 9 a.m. sharp. I arrive at City Paper HQ, Second and Chestnut. The office is completely empty except for Copy Editor Rick Valenzuela. He’s trying to read while I play MP3s in a low-walled cube just 10 feet away or so. I ask him if it’s too loud, but I can’t hear his answer.

9:22 a.m. Fashionably late, members of CP’s advertising department begin arriving at 30-second intervals. No matter what time of year, the ad reps show up in full-length fur coats, typically pure-bred puppy pelt.

9:30 a.m. I realize Assistant Editor Mike Pelusi is nearby in his cube, and has probably been there since before I arrived. Mike believes that if he stays very still and wishes hard enough, he may be able to go a whole day without wishing somebody was dead. This is as close to optimism as Mike gets.

10 a.m. Other members of the editorial staff arrive all at once as if maybe they’d spent the night together.

10:30 a.m. I begin receiving phone calls about listings. Here’s a typical conversation: “Hey Pat, it’s Ted.” I say nothing. “You know, Ted from TVT?” He sounds hurt that I wouldn’t remember what must have been, to him, a meaningful conversation.

“Okay,” I reply, while checking on my online fantasy baseball team.

“We spoke last week about Crappamatixx Shit Haus” — or some such poorly named band. I tell Ted “I’m on deadline,” which I hope he’ll interpret as, “I hate you.” I do hate Ted.

11 a.m. Some members of Editorial begin Instant Messaging each other, though no one is more than 20 feet from anyone else. Arts Editor Debra Auspitz tells us all about Dude, Where’s My Car? which she rented last night.

11:15 a.m. Editor-in-Chief David Warner strolls in and begins tossing money around the office. Ever since he was awarded a Pew Fellowship thing a few months ago, he’s been kind of hard to deal with. Last week he put a cigar out on Debra’s head because she forgot to call him “His Pewness.” Dave retires to his spacious office and orders Mike to direct traffic in the middle of Second Street so His Pewness can watch from his window.

11:30 a.m. I begin writing the entire paper, under my various pseudonyms.

Noon. My interns start arriving. They set about opening mail and sorting faxes. They are nervous because they cannot see Mike, but they assume he can see them.

12:30 p.m. I head out within Old City to pick up some lunch. Ad reps are scattered all over Second Street — talking on cell phones, dining at posh outdoor cafés and tearfully pouring 40s on the sidewalk in front of what used to be a nightclub called Live Bait. I wave to Mike, who curses each time a car honks at him. He asks me to pick up a coffee for him. I do.

12:45 p.m. Upon returning to the office with my lunch, I find that News Editor Howard Altman has redirected my interns away from their listings duties to do things for him. One poor soul is transcribing an interview Howard apparently conducted at a bowling alley. Another intern was given a single SEPTA token and a hand-drawn map, and sent to North Philly with a disposable camera to take pictures of drug dealers.

1 p.m. Howard and I briefly argue about the intern situation, how he’s always stealing the free help and making them quit. Then we talk about fantasy baseball for a half-hour.

2 p.m. Dave is loudly directing a crew of movers who are installing a lifeguard’s chair behind his desk. Five minutes later, Dave calls everyone into his office to announce that he will be unreachable by phone and e-mail until such time as a “proper desk” can be built. He adjourns the meeting by pelting us from above with macadamia nuts.

2:30 p.m. I receive a dozen calls in a row from people who want me to know that they have just e-mailed or faxed me. These are the people I can stand the least. I tell them I’m on deadline.

2:45 p.m. Staff Writer Gwen Shaffer asks to borrow some Windex. She always cleans her awards and trophies around this time. Today she accuses Staff Writer Noel Weyrich of touching them. Noel quit about three months ago.

3 p.m. There is a banging noise coming from Senior Writer Frank Lewis’ office. It appears he has again forgotten the combination to the secret refrigerator under his desk that everyone knows about. How to put this? Frank is a drunk.

3:22 p.m. I receive a panicked call from Music Editor Brian Howard. He says the fort he spent all day making out of free CDs has collapsed on him. After he is pulled to safety, Brian determines he is indeed well enough to remain on Jill Scott’s guest list tonight. He begins the rebuilding process.

3:52 p.m. Movie critic Sam Adams arrives. After a long day of watching movies (all of which he hated), Sam retires to his cubicle where he begins downloading a dozen shitty MP3s all at once. To pass the time he begins critiquing everyone who walks by. He says website guy Ryan Godfrey is a “potentially interesting subject” but he’s “overwhelmed by dramatic obviousness.” When Ryan observes that he should shut up, Sam replies that his dialogue is “courtesy of Screenplay Writing 101.”

4:12 p.m. Sam’s computer crashes and he leaves.

4:30 p.m. Dave’s background in theater really shows when he calls everyone into his office again for a sort of real-life re-creation of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” Each of us takes a small piece of paper from a basket at the foot of His Pewness’ lifeguard chair, near a pile of stones. It takes only a minute to determine that all the papers are completely identical. Confused, we begin to throw rocks at Editorial Assistant Juliet Fletcher because, although she is nice and smart and all, she is also British.

4:44 p.m. Most of the editorial department is gathered at a window to look at the ambulance where Mike used to be. We were all surprised he lasted this long, and we’re glad to see he’ll be taken care of. Staff Writer Daryl Gale says something mean and we all laugh.

4:46 p.m. The light changes and we realize Mike’s still down there. Guess he was under the ambulance. It’s hard to tell if he’s still trying to direct traffic or if that’s just his death rattle.

4:48 p.m. Members of the classifieds, sales and production staffs all crowd into one elevator.

4:49 p.m. I receive an emergency collect call from an intern who asks to speak to Howard. It sounds important, but I accidentally transfer the call incorrectly. Then Debra remembers something funny from The Goonies and we all laugh about that until it’s time to leave.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah. Listings are fun.

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One Response

  1. nancy

    i missed this the first time around, glad to read it today….hope you didn’t hate me!! (when you work in PR for someone else, they make you follow up those press releases with phone calls, not once did i enjoy it!)
    thanks for all the great years at CP


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