Does a newspaper need journalists to exclusively follow Taylor Swift or Beyoncé? Yes, responds the Gannett group, owner of USA Today, whose hiring announcement aroused curiosity and criticism, but it also reveals the extent to which the two artists are cultural phenomena.
The press group, owner of more than 200 newspapers throughout the United States, has reduced its editorial staff in recent years and embodies the crisis facing the local press. Last December, it laid off another 6% of the 3,440 employees employed by its media division.
So when he discovered Gannett’s very serious ad for a “Taylor Swift Reporter” position, followed by a similar one for Beyoncé, journalist Brad Vidmar’s blood boiled.
“I think it’s a good time to remind Twitter that I am the only full-time journalist left at my newspaper, which Gannett sold in December,” he wrote on X (ex-Twitter).
Its Burlington, Iowa newspaper, The Hawk Eye, was purchased in 2016 by the GateHouse publishing group, which absorbed Gannett in 2019 and took its name to become the largest newspaper group in the country. And in late 2022, Gannett resold The Hawk Eye.
“They continued to reduce staff, reducing it and reducing it again in all areas,” explains the 41-year-old journalist. “But of course now they need someone to cover for Taylor Swift,” he jokes.
According to Gannett, the two columnists will work for USA Today and The Tennessean, the chain’s newspaper in Nashville, the capital of the country where Taylor Swift spent part of her life.
The future Taylor Swift specialist, whose position will be added to that of the Tennessean’s three music journalists, will have the mission of “capturing the excitement of her current tour,” which promises to exceed one billion for the first time in music history. dollars in income. income, “while providing a thoughtful analysis of her music and career.”
Not enough to convince the New York branch of the NewsGuild press union, which summarized in the local news 3. Hire a reporter Taylor Swift.”
“These positions are not created to the detriment of other jobs,” Gannett communications manager Lark-Marie Anton assures AFP. She notes that since March, Gannett has hired another 225 journalists and that there are also more than a hundred positions open to candidates.
“Taylor Swift and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter are artists and businesswomen. Their work has enormous economic impact and social importance that influences many sectors and our culture: they are shaping a generation,” she adds.
Robert Thompson, founder and director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, New York, also thought “(it was) a joke” when he saw the ad.
But after careful consideration, he concluded that it would be “stupid to reject all this out of hand.” According to him, it is an opportunity to “tell the story of America in the 21st century through its most popular characters.”
Robert Thompson, however, understands the criticism in a context of budget constraints for the local press.
He also predicts that these positions will not be the “dream” careers that some claim. On the one hand, because fans of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are known for defending their idol tooth and nail and the slightest negative comment can trigger avalanches of criticism, even death threats, on social media. On the other hand, because the worlds of Taylor Swift and Beyonce are well guarded by those around them and difficult to penetrate.
Beyond the fans, “the eyes of the profession will focus on these poor people when they are finally hired,” he emphasizes. “Your first article from him should be really good.”