i work for ... Jefferson Hack

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The Independent Culture
Suzannah Tartan is PA to the editor of the style magazine `Dazed and Confused'

I have an academic appointment as an English lecturer at a university in Tokyo but during my long holidays I like to experience other work fields. A friend of mine knew people at Dazed and Confused in London and knowing that I liked and admired the magazine suggested that I contacted Jefferson with a view to working for him as his PA for several months during one of my breaks.

During a short trip to London I visited Jefferson at the office. It was a strange interview. He gave me the only available chair before plopping himself down on to the ground, I thought "this won't do" and got down on the floor too. Jefferson asked me what my father did for a living and I answered "he's a mailman." Jefferson replied that his dad had been a cigarette salesperson and a gold prospector in Uruguay. I guess we both thought "you are all right with me".

My first impression of Jefferson was that he looked like a boy. People rarely believe that he's the editor; they tend to come into the office and walk right past him. He's a very mild-mannered person and also one of the nicest people I've ever worked with. There's no sense of his being too cool for his own trousers, just an awareness of his enormous curiosity. He's very interested in plugging into globalisation and was intrigued by the fact that I am American and live in Japan - I very much feel transitional. I think Dazed reflects this growing global community, defined by its take on life rather than its nationality.

I arrived at a very tense time because the magazine was just about to go to print. The office was electrified with an energy that was difficult to pin down and there wasn't much time to integrate a new person. But I realised that there's an ebb and flow to the way the magazine works. Being one of the few independently owned publications, Dazed has a very non-hierarchical setup, which allows an openness and a quirky questioning.

I wasn't very happy for the first week because most of my time was taken up with stuffing envelopes. It's hard to be assertive when you are new to a job, but it certainly paid off because when I told Jefferson that I could be doing more useful things for him he give me articles to write as well as research projects. We are preparing a commemorative issue on 1968, a period which fascinates me and I do a lot of my research on the Net. Anyone who wants to work in publishing these days has to be Net-literate.

By the time I arrive in the office Jefferson is usually off doing stuff, having left a to-do list on his desk. He jokes that I hijack his list; but I can usually tell the things that I can do for him from the things only he is able to do. I often offer to get him lunch because I worry about him getting too exhausted, he can get a pasty-faced look about him, which is when I want to pop broccoli into his mouth.

I admire the women who work here, particularly one very feisty woman. British men are cast to the wind in the presence of a strong woman, you can often see them wriggle. Feminism has penetrated a lot less easily here than in the States.

Many people would find it hard to work in an apparently unstructured environment; one needs to be strong-willed. It can get quite ferocious at times. But Jefferson is quite unflappable, he sits Buddha-like in the midst of it all before meandering around the different personalities, getting them to unite. Once when my computer didn't work I got halfway towards hysteria until Jefferson came over and said: "Suzannah, this is not an emergency."

It is a playful office though, for example Plankin, our publisher, will suddenly appear with his water pistol and start spraying everyone in the office. You can always recognise the visiting rock band members by their funny haircuts and weird-coloured shoes, but no one here is celebrity- struck. The only forewarning we had of Tori Amos's visit was when someone came and removed her picture from the wall before she walked through the office.

I find a lot of women's magazines problematic because they tend to be too prescriptive. I like the fact that Jefferson is motivated by a curiosity in new and radical ideas and wants to know what kids think and do. But the office is certainly not a "cooler than thou", clubby outfit.

I feel like I am learning a lot while I am here because it's a very intellectually engaging place to work. I get to write about things other magazines won't deal with and I was amused when I heard that Miuccia Prada complimented me on an itty bitty fashion piece I wrote.

I think that Dazed is the sort of office that allows someone like me to do her thing, make her mark and then leave having learned and contributed something valuable. I'm certainly going to keep in touch after I leave.