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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Gannett is looking for a Taylor Swift reporter

Gannett’s job posting reflects the frenzied fandom that has surrounded Taylor Swift, whose cultural resonance seems to deepen with each album.

By Eduardo Medina

Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, announced earlier this week that it would hire a reporter to cover one of biggest names in music: Taylor Swift.

As Swift’s prominence grows during her record-breaking tour, Gannett said it was looking for a reporter who could capture the significance of her music, as well as her “growing legacy” and “the effect she has across the music and business worlds.”

The reporter would be writing for USA Today and The Tennessean, the publisher’s newspaper in Nashville, where Swift began her career as a country darling before selling out stadiums across North America on her record-breaking Eras Tour.

The job reflects the frenzied fandom that has surrounded Swift, whose cultural resonance seems to deepen with each album, including the re-recordings of her old music. Her fans have spent thousands of dollars on concert tickets and shook the ground so hard at one concert that it registered as an earthquake on a seismometer near Seattle.

Reactions to the job posting have been mixed, including praise for Gannett for trying to reach a new audience and criticism over how the company has laid off local journalists in recent years.

Kristin Roberts, Gannett chief content officer, said in a statement Tuesday night that the USA Today Network, which the company owns, is committed to serving its readers with essential journalism, and that “includes providing our audience with content they crave.”

“As Taylor Swift’s fan base has grown to unprecedented heights, so has the influence of her music and growing legacy — not only on the industry but on our culture,” Roberts said. “She is shaping a generation and is relevant, influential and innovative — just like us.”

Newspapers often employ music critics and entertainment reporters, but rarely assign a reporter to cover a single artist.

The popularity of Swift, though, has proved to be a powerful force over the summer, culturally and economically.

A Federal Reserve survey of business contacts reported that Swift fans, or Swifties, had bolstered hotel revenues in the Philadelphia region. Although Swift, 33, and her promoters do not publicly report box-office figures, the trade publication Pollstar estimates that she has been selling about $14 million in tickets each night. By the end of her planned world tour, which is booked with 146 stadium dates well into 2024, Swift’s sales could reach $1.4 billion or more — exceeding Elton John’s $939 million for his multiyear farewell tour, the current record-holder.

Some journalists expressed concern about Gannett’s reporting priorities. In December, Gannett cut about 6% of the company’s roughly 3,440-person U.S. media division. Media analysts said the move could worsen the state of the local news industry, which has shrunk in recent years, creating information deserts in communities across the country.

Laura D. Testino, a reporter for Chalkbeat Tennessee, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that while Nashville is getting a Swift reporter, “Memphis is still without an investigative reporter.”

Gannett has hired 225 journalists since March and now has more than 100 open roles, Roberts said.

Vrinda Jagota, a music writer who has reported on Swift’s cultural significance, said in an interview Tuesday that while Swift is a complex pop icon worthy of journalistic analysis, there are other stars who are just as big, such as Beyoncé.

The Beyoncé album “Renaissance,” for example, has resonated with many Black and LGBTQ people, she said.

“I think the question that comes to mind for me is which fandoms and which moments of connection are taken more seriously,” Jagota said. “And Taylor Swift’s fandom is very white. It’s a lot of white women.”

Robert Thompson, the director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said Tuesday that such a hiring “is not as absurd as it looks at first glance.”

In an increasingly fragmented cultural environment, “where mass culture has broken up into a million little pieces,” he said, there is an increased value to the one thing that emerges that essentially everyone can comment on.

“You cannot be conscious in the United States without on some level having to come to grips with Taylor Swift,” Thompson said. Covering someone like her, he added, is a “perfectly sound activity for a journalist to be doing.”

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