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A dedicated Taylor Swift reporter faces criticism online

Everything has changed for Bryan West.

Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, announced Monday that West will take on the coveted job as the company’s first Taylor Swift correspondent for USA Today, covering all things the international pop sensation and Gannett’s network of many more. He announced that he would. 200 other newspapers across the country.

But before West, 35, had a chance to publish his first story about his new beat, he was facing criticism from two sides: journalistic observers and Swift’s fans.

Objections began pouring in after Variety broke the news of his hiring on Monday. The article featured an interview with West, which provided grounds for complaint to both newsroom ethicists and Swifties.

West, formerly a TV news reporter in Phoenix, drew criticism by describing himself as a “Taylor fan.” Those remarks caused some journalists to question whether he could be impartial about his new beat. Meanwhile, the singer’s fans also argued about whether she was famous or not. big sufficient Swiftie to catch up with her beloved stars. Some people on both sides said the job was better suited to women.

In the Variety interview, West compared himself to a sports reporter, suggesting he could maintain objectivity. “I can say that this position is no different from being a sports reporter who supports the home team,” he said. “I just came from Phoenix and all the emcees there were wearing Diamondback gear; They want the Diamondbacks to win.

These remarks did not sit well with some sportswriters, including Boston-based sports and culture journalist Frankie de la Cretaz.

“Any sports reporter will tell you that the No. 1 rule of sports journalism is no cheering in the press box,” de la Cretaz, 38, said. “It’s one of the most important aspects of this job. It’s one of the first things you learn. The idea, of course, is that if you’re a fan of the team, you can’t be an impartial reporter.

“I don’t know if I think that’s necessarily true,” they continued, “but I think for him to make that comparison shows me a fundamental misunderstanding of what the role of a sports reporter is.”

NBC News editor Benjamin Goggin criticized West’s hiring at X, formerly known as Twitter, writing that Gannett gave the job to “a pure observer rather than someone who could criticize one of its most powerful figures.” people all over popular culture.

“Haters gonna hate,” Lark-Marie Antón, Gannett’s chief communications officer, wrote in an email in response to criticism from journalists. The spokesperson added that West’s credentials “make him the best candidate for this role.” (West, who is now at Gannett newspaper The Tennessean in Nashville, declined to be interviewed for this article.)

April Glick Pulito, a Swift fan who works in political communications, posted lyrics from a Swift song in response to the hiring: “I’m so tired of running as fast as I can, wondering if I could get there quicker.” Pulito, 35, said in X that the singer was cast as a man he wrote, quoting “The Man,” who re-imagined his life had he been born.

“This was not a statement about the reporter’s abilities,” Pulito said in an interview. “He seems extremely qualified. But as someone who works in the communications industry, I think the optics of the choice are undeniable.” He would prefer the role to be given to a female candidate: “Someone that many Taylor fans can look up to and see themselves in.” said.

Gannett spokesman says company “does not discriminate”.”

In a year when seemingly anything related to the singer is the subject of media scrutiny, Gannett’s announcement that it plans to hire a dedicated Swift reporter has sparked plenty of headlines and online commentary.

When the company launched the search in September, it said the chosen candidate would “define why the pop star’s influence is growing” and “what her fan base represents in pop culture.” (The company also announced it was seeking a similar role involving Beyoncé.)

As part of his application, West submitted a five-minute video outlining his reasons for being hired. The first was the journalistic experience. West previously worked as a broadcast reporter and producer at an NBC affiliate in Phoenix and won several awards, he said.

The second reason was that he met Swift. He said the opportunity to meet him arose after she told him a few stories about Swift while working in Phoenix. West included a photo of himself with the singer in the video.

In his application, West added that although he is a fan, he was able to report on Swift without bias. He listed three songs he “couldn’t stand” as evidence; these included the song “It’s Nice to Have a Friend”.

Originally, Variety quoted West as calling the song “It’s Good to Have a Friend”; This was a mistake by the publication, which alarmed many Swifties who concluded that he was unfit for duty.

West also noted that he has been sober for five years. “I will never fail a drug test,” he said in his video application. West posted an article on his personal website detailing people who led Phoenix police officers on a car chase in 2018 and were sentenced to prison for drunk driving. “Bryan clearly explains his personal journey,” a Gannett spokesperson wrote. in an email.

Lauren Lipman, 32, was one of the candidates who didn’t get the job. Lipman, a Los Angeles-based content creator, has made a career out of posting videos predominantly about Swift. In September, Lipman received an email from a recruiter at Gannett to discuss the role further but ultimately was not called into additional interviews. (Gannett declined to comment on Lipman’s application process.)

Lipman, disappointed to lose the role, wished West good luck. “I’m saddened, but honestly I’m so excited that this position exists. “Like, go Bryan,” he said.

Despite criticizing West’s reference to how sports journalists do their jobs, de la Cretaz said they sympathized with Gannett’s flashy hire.

“It’s a relentless fan base, and I don’t think the person they hired for this role will make any profit,” de la Cretaz said. “Either he doesn’t get respect from the public because he’s a fan and is seen as prejudiced, or he doesn’t get respect from the fandom itself because he’s not the right kind of fan.”

Bill Grueskin, a professor and former dean at Columbia Journalism school, said West’s passion for his subject can make for good reporting. He also threw cold water on West’s critics on the court.

“Expecting journalists to completely suspend any personal appreciation for a pop star or a baseball team probably won’t work,” he said. “What matters is how you cover it up.”

Gannett has yet to announce who will perform Beyoncé’s beat.

c.2023 New York Times Corporation

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