The largest newspaper group in America, Gannett, has filled the “Taylor Swift reporter” position that was previously empty. Bryan West, a 35-year-old journalist from Arizona, has taken on this exciting role and recently moved to Nashville to begin his new job. West will be solely reporting on everything related to Taylor Swift for USA Today and over 200 local daily newspapers affiliated with Gannett. He will work out of The Tennessean’s newsroom and will have no other reporting duties than covering Swift.
When Gannett first announced their search for a dedicated reporter to cover Taylor Swift and another one specifically for Beyoncé, it sparked a lot of discussion among media professionals. Some saw it as a sign of the end of days, while others thought it was a smart move in entertainment reporting. Those who support the idea may understand why West was chosen above hundreds of other applicants. He is likely one of a kind, and that’s what makes him fun.
According to West, the position he holds is similar to that of a sports journalist who supports the home team. He cites an example of how news anchors in Phoenix wore Diamondbacks gear and rooted for them. Similarly, West is a fan of Taylor and has admired her since the beginning of her career. However, he also possesses a journalistic background, having attended Northwestern University, won awards and worked across several newsrooms in the country. West believes that the job is not just about discussing Easter eggs but also the influence that Taylor has on society, business, and music.
Prior to the official announcement, during a call with Variety, West eagerly engaged with a journalist known for their deep knowledge and interest in Swift news. Within the first minute of the call, West predicted that their biggest point of contention would be the secret Vault songs on the current hit album “1989 (Taylor’s Version)”. He specifically mentioned “Now That We Don’t Talk” as a fan favorite, while expressing his own admiration for “Say Don’t Go”. West even pinpointed a particular moment in “Say Don’t Go” that he found haunting: a bridge near the end of the track where Swift screams a muted harmony of “I said ‘I love you’.”
The statement made by West is one that would resonate with many of his fans, if only they were to read it. In this age of digital newspapers, it’s important for publications like Gannett’s dailies to produce more video content in order to attract a wider audience. This approach worked in favor of West, who was able to highlight his experience as a one-man band for an NBC affiliate in Phoenix during his job search. Despite initial skepticism, Michael Anastasi, the Tennessean’s editor and Gannett’s VP of local news, assures that the company is committed to finding a real journalist to fill the role, regardless of their level of experience.
According to Anastasi, the quality of applicants for the pool was impressive. Even if they had hired more people, there would have been highly qualified candidates for all positions. The applicants ranged from experienced hard-news reporters, including a well-established White House reporter, to Swifties who were bloggers and social media influencers. There were also many fans who were hoping to fulfill their dreams and win the opportunity. However, the chosen candidate had the perfect balance of being a veteran journalist with strong news skills and someone who understood the intricacies of Taylor’s world and the industry he was entering.
Ben Goad, the news director of The Tennessean, states that Brian West’s job of covering Taylor Swift is not a conventional beat where he would only write three print stories a week and draw a paycheck. West will be on video, social media, and interacting with Swifties. He will attend tour stops, red carpets, CMAs, and wherever people are reflecting on Taylor Swift. The job is not unprecedented as there have been people dedicated to covering Senate candidates or athletes like LeBron James. Goad is optimistic about how it will turn out. West confirms that he will be covering CMA Awards-related red carpets in Nashville on his first week on the job. However, West does not confirm if he will ask country stars what their favorite Vault track on “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” is. West has met Taylor Swift once before in the backstage at the Phoenix-area opening night of the “Reputation” tour in 2018. As a reporter for the NBC affiliate in town, he was known for his Swiftie-ness, and the anchors would rib him on-air. West informed Taylor’s team about the jibes, and Tree Paine, Swift’s publicist, wrote him on the morning of the concert, saying that Taylor wanted to meet him. West printed out a headsH๏t of himself, signed it, and waited in the parking lot for four hours until he received his passes to go backstage.
West’s submission to Gannett included a photo opportunity and a shortlist of story ideas, such as the impact of Swift’s music on the friendship bracelet industry. During the interview process, he expanded his ideas to a two-page PDF. Despite Swift’s absence in 2024, West is eager to cover the Eras Tour’s global markets and the release of “Taylor’s Version” of “Reputation.” West has a serious side, too, as someone who became sober and made significant life changes five years ago, which led him to step back from news and work with high school student leaders. He joked that he wished he could report on Taylor Swift every day, and when his colleague told him about the job opening, it felt like a manifestation of his dream.
Can a devoted Taylor Swift fan maintain objectivity when reporting negative news about their favorite singer? This question was addressed by an individual named West in his video submission for a job. He claimed that he could report fairly and even criticize the superstar if necessary. To prove his point, he cited three Swift songs that he dislikes: “Stay Stay Stay,” “False God,” and “It’s Nice to Have a Friend.” West is now concerned that he may face backlash from fans for criticizing these tracks. However, he also shared his favorite songs which include “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.”
Some journalists may argue that hiring a reporter solely dedicated to covering Taylor Swift’s music career is a frivolous move, or that creating this type of job is insensitive considering the current state of the newspaper industry. It’s important to note that the newspaper chain in question has undergone significant cutbacks, with 400 employees being laid off and 400 positions remaining unfilled after a second-quarter loss. Another 6% reduction followed later. Despite these concerns, there is potential for a journalist like West to bring a unique perspective to the world of music reporting as a dedicated Swiftie.