Largest US newspaper chain is hiring Taylor Swift and Beyoncé reporters, drawing interest and ire

FILE - Beyonce accepts the award for best dance/electronic music album for "Renaissance" at the 65th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, in Los Angeles. The singer turns 42 on Sept. 4. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

Taylor Swift accepts the award for song of the year for "Anti-Hero" during the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

LOS ANGELES — Last week the United States’ biggest newspaper chain posted to its site two unusual job listings: a Taylor Swift reporter and a Beyoncé reporter.

Gannett, which owns more than 200 daily papers, will employ these new hires through USA Today and The Tennessean, the company’s Nashville-based newspaper. The chain is looking for “modern storytellers” adept in print, audio and visual journalism, said Michael Anastasi, The Tennessean’s editor and Gannett’s vice president for local news.


“Seeing both the facts and the fury, the Taylor Swift reporter will identify why the pop star’s influence only expands, what her fanbase stands for in pop culture, and the effect she has across the music and business worlds,” the company said in its job description.

Similarly, the company wants a journalist who can capture Beyoncé’s effect on society and the industries in which she operates.

Anastasi said the Tennessean already has a three-person music team and “I put our sophisticated coverage up against anybody.” Gannett is always looking for opportunities to make itself essential for paying customers, he said.

Critics of the new roles cited layoffs at Gannett, where the workforce has shrunk 47% in the last three years because of layoffs and attrition, according to the NewsGuild. At some newspapers, the union said the headcount has fallen by as much as 90%. Last year alone, Gannett cut about 6% of its roughly 3,440-person U.S. media division.

Some journalists said that while hiring these massively popular artist-specific roles reflect their influence in pop culture, they do fail to invest in local journalism.

“At a time when so much serious news and local reporting is being cut, it’s a decision to raise some questions about,” Rick Edmonds, an expert at the journalism think tank Poynter Institute, said of the new positions.

Said Anastasi: “We’re not hiring a Taylor Swift reporter at the expense of other reporters.”

Some journalists criticized the job listings for presenting superfan behavior as a full-time journalism job. Music writer Jeremy Gordon said on social media that it “doesn’t feel great to see ‘full-time stan’ go out as an actual journalism job.” (“Stan” is slang for superfan. )

If the hire acts more like a fan than a journalist, the decision could backfire on Gannett. But if the job is done well, and the reporters can penetrate tightly controlled operations to glean insights, they can establish themselves as national authorities on important cultural figures.

Representatives for Swift and Beyoncé did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Omise’eke Tinsley, academic and author of “Beyoncé in Formation: Remixing Black Feminism,” says this type of role makes space for more positive stories about Black women.

It is not uncommon for journalists to develop a beat on a specific figure, particularly in politics — as evidenced by Amy Chozick, whom the New York Times hired in 2013 to cover Hillary Clinton exclusively. But most entertainment journalists are responsible for reporting on a wide range of talent — even if they are subject matter experts on a specific artist.

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