Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, no longer has a blank space under the heading “Taylor Swift Reporter.” The company wrote on behalf of Brian West, a 35-year-old journalist from Arizona who had just moved to Nashville for the newly added, headline-grabbing position. Starting today, West will work out of the Tennessee newspaper newsroom for USA Today and the chain’s more than 200 local dailies, reporting on all things Swift… and just about all things Swift.
When Janet first announced her job search in September, it led to a lot of soul-searching and angst among media types, who could be found publicly debating in public forums over whether to hire a dedicated Swift correspondent (and also someone exclusively at Beyoncé ) Beat It was a sign of the end of the world or the most obvious, defensible thing anyone who works in entertainment coverage has done in years.
for anyone Do I think hiring a Swift Beat reporter makes perfect sense, it might not be hard to see why West was able to convince the company that, out of all the hundreds of applicants, they would never find someone like him…that he’s the only one…and this kid is a treat for him.
“I would say this position is no different than being a sports journalist and a home team fan,” West says. “I just came from Phoenix, and all the announcers there were wearing Diamondbacks gear; they wanted the Diamondbacks to win. I’m just a fan of Taylor and I’ve followed her throughout her career, but I also have that journalism background: going to Northwestern University, winning awards, working in newsrooms at All over the country. I think the fun of this job is that, yes, you can talk about Easter eggs, but it’s really more serious, like the impact you have on the community and business and music.
At the beginning of the call with diverse Before the announcement was made, West was willing to take on a journalist who was also on record for being deep into Swift’s news, opinions, and lore.
“I think our biggest moment of contention would be the Secret Vault songs,” he said in the first minute of the call — referring to the bonus songs in the current blockbuster “1989 (Taylor Version)” — “because I know you’re a fan of ‘Now That We Don’t Talk “, and I’m a big fan of “Say Don’t Go.” West was even able to cite a unique moment in “Say Don’t Go” that makes it the scariest of the new songs for him: “When you listen to it, you’re screaming ‘I said ‘I love you’ in harmony.” [in a bridge near the end of the track]That’s why I really love it: the harmony it screams is silent.
This is the kind of cryptic remark that might make West a man after the hearts of a million Swifties… if that star’s core demographic can be convinced to pick up a newspaper. And when we say “pick up a paper,” we of course mean engaging with Gannett’s dailies digitally, as newspapers expand their reach with more stories produced as video content. That’s something West says gave him an advantage in the search, as he was able to highlight his history working for an NBC affiliate in Phoenix, often acting as a “one-man band” holding a camera and filming his own interviews.
Michael Anastasi, editor of The Tennessean and vice president of local news for the Gannett chain, says cynics were wrong to assume that the company put out the job ad as publicity and wouldn’t look for a real journalist to fill the role… even if not all the hopefuls had reporting experience.
“We were very pleased with the quality of our pool,” Anastasi says. “I think if we ended up hiring five more people, we would have highly qualified candidates” for all the positions. “It ran the gamut from seasoned serious news reporters, including at least one correspondent from the White House, to Swifties who blog and are influencers…and of course there were a number of fans who were following their dreams and hoping to win the lottery. But it ended.” Built It Up is someone who I think has a great balance between being a veteran journalist with serious news articles and someone who understands everything about Taylor’s world and the universe he’s entering into.
“This isn’t a traditional approach that says, ‘We’ll write three print stories a week and get paid.'” He’ll be on video, he’ll be on social media, he’ll be interacting with Swifties, he’ll be out and about At tour stops, on red carpets, at the CMAs, wherever people are enjoying or thinking about Taylor Swift…there’s no shortage of things to write about. You know, it’s not unprecedented to have someone (devoted to covering) someone running for Senate, Or an athlete, like when LeBron James goes to Miami and there are people covering him. So I think there’s a precedent for that. But I also think we’re making a very bold move here, and I’m very optimistic about how things will turn out.
West confirms that he will be out and about on the CMA Awards red carpets in Nashville as part of his first week on the job. But if his job is just covering Swift, does that mean he’ll be asking country music stars about their favorite Vault song on “1989 (Taylor’s Version)”? He doesn’t put his hand out there.
West met Swift once, backstage on the opening night of her Reputation tour in the Phoenix area in 2018 (pictured above). As a correspondent for the city’s NBC affiliate, he was so famous for his quick personality that announcers would sometimes harass him on the air. “The newscasters were making fun of me, saying things like, ‘We’re surprised Brian didn’t call in sick today because Taylor released a new album.’” I put those (jibes) together, sent them to her team, and said, “Hey, just so you know, Taylor has A local news reporter has a crush on him.” Trey (Payne, Swift’s publicist) wrote me the morning of the party and said, “Taylor wants to meet you.” When can you get out of here? I came home, changed my clothes, went to Walgreens and printed out a picture of myself and signed it. “From “Your favorite local news reporter,” and she sat in the parking lot for four hours until she said, “Hey, your passes to me.” (In his video autobiography, West recalls the moment and jokes, “Our ears touched and I thought for a moment, ‘I could be straight.'”
The submission West sent to Gannett naturally includes that photo, but it also includes items like a short list of serious story ideas — like, for example, how Swift economically influenced the making of friendship bracelets. Over the course of the interview process, he then expanded this into a two-page PDF of story ideas.
He’s not worried about taking over his shift with what appears to be Swift’s biggest year coming to an end, and 2024 will largely be spent overseas. Besides covering how the Eras Tour might fare in global markets, he’s particularly excited about the anticipated release of “Taylor’s version” of “Reputation,” which he correctly and objectively considers to be one of her best albums.
He can indulge in conspiracy theories with the best of them — he had a relationship with Swift sending clues to her fans via her fingernails that he would only share off the record. But West also has a fundamentally serious side that he shares autobiography, as someone who got sober and made big changes in his life five years ago.
“I was at a crossroads where I felt like I could live in this darkness or I could wake up and try to be a better person, so part of that for me was getting away from the news,” West says. “I joined a local CrossFit gym that works with people who… They struggle with sobriety and recovery. And then I started working at a company where I traveled the United States to work with high school student leaders — and I loved it because I could be a geek and I wanted to be known for being a good person. That was my retreat from the news. … I told them jokingly “If I could report on Taylor Swift every day.” So it seemed like a manifestation of that when the same colleague texted me and said, Hey, your dream job just became available.
Is Swiftie destined to be kind when it comes to news that might cast the star in a harsher light? West addressed the issue of objectivity in his video application for the job, saying he would be able to give a fair account of the star — and would criticize if necessary — with a slightly comedic example: The proof, he said, was in his quoting three Swift songs he couldn’t stand: “Stay, Stay,” “False God,” and “It’s good to have a friend.” Now that his video resume has been made public, he’s a little concerned that fans might “cancel” his show for throwing those three tracks under the bus. (For the record, his favorite songs are: “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”, “Long Live”, an extended concert version of “I Did Something Bad”, “Death by a Thousand Cuts” and “Wildest Dreams “. “for beginners.)
There will, of course, be journalists who think this is a pure fanboy situation, or that even if West has the ability to be Swifty, it’s still an insult to serious news reporting when this kind of job is set up as a traditional job. Positions are being cut left and right in the newspaper industry. Many have pointed to the significant cuts the chain made in the second half of 2022. It was then reported that a significant loss in the second quarter first led to 400 layoffs and 400 job openings, followed later by another 6% reduction.
But Anastasi says a vital part of keeping a business healthy is creating new jobs even as others leave. “I oversee all the newsrooms across the country for Gannett,” he says. “It is very important to note that I have hired hundreds of local journalists in the last few months, across all of our newspapers – large, medium and small – and that these positions are not a replacement for other positions in our company. This is part of a very deliberate, transformational strategy to become the company we need to become in order to grow.” Prosper and be in a position to serve all our communities across the country into the future.
West is not guaranteeing interviews with Swift, who rarely does interviews. If he gets one, he’ll have a backlog of mysteries, as any fan, big or small, does. Such as: “I love the wildest dreams.” I can’t believe that was her heartbeat. I want to ask her: “Have you been at the doctor’s office and they’re just taking your pulse, and you’re like, ‘Wait, I have to record this’?”
Future teen idol. Typical social media ninja. Alcohol buff. Explorer. Creator. Beer advocate.”