For those still mourning the demise of The Dissolve — or anyone who likes sharp, well-crafted writing — good news: The late publication’s editor, Keith Phipps, will come on board at Uproxx in mid-September as the site’s first Editorial Director for Film and TV. Coming several months after the site hired Mike Ryan away from ScreenCrush, the move represents Uproxx’s latest move to expand its coverage and for the generalist, internet-savvy audience courted by sites like BuzzFeed, Vox and Vice. Criticwire talked to both Phipps and Uproxx Editor-in-chief Brett Michael Dykes about what to expect.
So, Keith, tell us about the job. Is it primarily editorial, or are you going to be writing more?
Keith Phipps: It’s
primarily editorial. I’m going to be running the film and TV verticals
on the site, making sure we’re covering both subjects as well as we can.
Specifically, my job is to guide what we cover and how we cover it then
work with the writers to produce the best pieces possible. In many
respects, it’s not that different from my previous jobs at The Dissolve and The A.V. Club, but with a new team I’m excited to join and get to know. All that being said, I will be writing. It’s hard to get me to stop and I’ve already scouted out some areas I can cover.
You came out of the end of the Dissolve fairly pessimistic about the
state of the writing industry, and especially about the viability of specialized
sites. How will that affect your approach at Uproxx?
pessimism the right word? Well, probably. I was coming off an
experience where we put a lot of sweat into making a site tailored for
people who love film and wanted smart film coverage but designed to
appeal both to casual fans and hardened cineastes and found we couldn’t
sustain it, for whatever reason. I’m now going to work for a site that
covers a broad range of subjects that includes film and television.
Maybe you can extrapolate a general trend from that. I’m not sure. But I
know the editor-in-chief, Brett Michael Dykes, hired me to do what I
do, just within the broader context of Uproxx.
What are you looking forward to being able to do at Uproxx that wouldn’t have fit the Dissolve’s mission?
Phipps: I always saw The Dissolve’s mission as laser-focused on film, past and present. I definitely want to draw on that way of thinking for Uproxx,
covering the present while also remembering there’s an audience of
readers that likes to understand the present as part of a continuum with
the past. That the site is already doing that sort of thing—as with pieces like its oral history of “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and its reappraisal of “That Thing You Do!” — makes
me feel like I’ll be right at home there. That being said, it’s a
different, faster-paced site and just bringing in TV changes my mission,
but I’m looking forward to the challenge. And with Uproxx’s music and geek-culture sections in the mix, we can do some interesting cross-pollination.
A lot of sites (including Criticwire) have added or beefed up their TV coverage in the last several years. Is there a way you’d like to approach that’s already being done elsewhere?
I think the key is to find a balance between what the readers already want — specifically the handful of “Game of Thrones”-level shows that create a seemingly bottomless well of interest — and guiding them to what they don’t know they should be watching. I’ve spent part of this summer catching up with showsI’d been meaning to watch during the Dissolve era and two of them — “Rectify” and “You’re the Worst” — are series I never would have known about if it hadn’t been for critical advocacy. And they’re great! I feel it’s something like a duty to beat the drum for shows like that. The other show I’ve been catching up with is their opposite: “The Walking Dead.” And I’m hooked on that in a way that makes me want to read every article about it, as soon as I make it through all the seasons. (I don’t start until mid-September, so I’ve got some time.)
So, in a way, I feel like I’m our target audience, someone who wants to go deep with pre-existing obsessions but also wants to understand the whole TV landscape and be pointed toward pockets worth exploring. Finding a way to serve both those needs is the challenge. And the debate over TV has been so lively these past few years, as I don’t have to tell you, that I’m eager to be part of a team engaging with it.
Do you anticipate bringing some/all of your former Dissolve colleagues into the mix at Uproxx?
Phipps: My first task will be getting to know the Uproxx team
and working with them. That’s going to be my focus for a while before I
even start thinking about outside contributors, from The Dissolve or
elsewhere. But I would love to work with everyone again and hope
chances arrive to do so. We’ve all stayed in touch and I suspect we’ll
spend the rest of our careers trying to keep working together, in one
form or another.
If the end of the Dissolve said bad things about the state of culture
writing online, does your finding another position inside of three
months say comparatively good things about it?
Phipps: I hope so! Having said that, I’m the first Dissolve staffer
to go off the market. People in the position to do so: Please hire
everyone else. I will write novel-length letters of recommendation if I
Brett, What makes Keith Phipps the right person for the job?
Brett Michael Dykes: Keith is one of the best entertainment editors working today,
one with quite a distinguished track record, so I obviously could not
be more excited to have him join the Uproxx team. He’s going to help
make our film and TV coverage even stronger than it already is.
“Editorial Director” is a new slot on Uproxx’s masthead. How will that change/expand what Uproxx does?
is a new position, of sorts. Over the last few years myself and the
other editors on our team have handled overseeing our TV and film
coverage ourselves. But as Uproxx continued to grow it became
increasingly apparent that we really needed a great editor who’s solely
devoted to overseeing those aspects of the site. Bringing on Keith will
allow me and the other editors to focus more on other aspects of running
the site, while also making our TV and film coverage better. Having him
around will also be great for my sanity, I think.
Should we see this as part of the same strategy that led you to bring
Mike Ryan on board last year?
Dykes: Yeah, for sure.
We want to continue to grow and get better. It’s really that simple.
Ultimately, we want to be considered as an authority on entertainment
and culture, and bringing on people like Keith and Mike helps to enhance
Many people, including
the staff of the Dissolve themselves, viewed the site’s failure as a
sign that it’s impossible to make a site focused on a single subject
viable. Do you agree with that analysis? And have you talked to Keith
about what if anything you’d want him to differently here?
don’t know if it’s impossible for single subject sites to exist, but it
certainly seems to be increasingly hard. We’re more of general culture
site, but entertainment has traditionally been our bread and butter,
which is another reason I think it’s important to have someone as smart
and talented as Keith singularly focused on TV and film. As for the work
Keith will do for us, we obviously talked about it at length during our
discussions throughout the interviewing process and it’ll probably be a
lot more like the work he did at AV Club, an entertainment site with a
more general audience, than the work he did at the Dissolve, which was
more of a niche site with a smaller, but rabid audience. We’re definitely
more similar to AV Club than we are to the Dissolve, but that doesn’t
mean some of his Dissolve experience can’t cross over to help improve
our film coverage.