Gannett Hires Dedicated Reporters for Taylor Swift and Beyoncé Despite Layoffs


The United States’ largest newspaper chain, Gannett, recently posted two uncommon job openings: a reporter dedicated to the life and activities of Taylor Swift and another for Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.

Through collaborations with its 200 plus daily newspapers, including USA Today and The Tennessean based in Nashville, the new hires would assume the role of “modern storytellers,” proficient in all aspects of journalism—print, audio, and visual. The job descriptions highlight the need for the reporters to comprehend and convey the societal impacts and the cultural relevance of these pop icons.

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The Taylor Swift reporter will be tasked to unravel the secret behind Swift’s continually expanding influence, discern the essence of her fanbase in pop culture, and trace her impact in the music and business sectors. Similarly, the Beyoncé reporter is expected to deliver profound insights into the singer’s transformative effect on society and the various industries she engages in.

Despite the existing three-person music team, Michael Anastasi, Gannett’s vice president for local news and Tennessean’s editor, cites that their sophisticated coverage could stand against any. Actively seeking opportunities to enhance their service to their paying customers, Gannett aims to become an indispensable source of relevant news and information.

However, these new roles have drawn criticism in light of Gannett’s recent layoffs. The company’s workforce dwindled by 47% over the past three years due to layoffs and attrition. Some media outlets saw reductions as high as 90%, with Gannett last year jettisoning approximately 6% of its roughly 3,440-person U.S. media division. Critics argue that hiring for these unique, artist-specific roles at the cost of local journalism is a sign of misplaced priorities.

Gannett defended the decision, however, with Anastasi emphasizing that the introduction of these roles in no way come at the expense of other reporters. He also addressed concerns about the possible negative effect if the reporters acted more like fans rather than objective journalists. His position was that if the job was executed properly, the reporters would instead establish their credibility as national authorities on these influential artists.

The roles have also been criticized for presenting fandom as a full-time job. Furthermore, such beat reporting, although common in politics, is unusual in entertainment journalism, which typically covers a wide range of talents.

The decision to create these roles can be seen as a sign of Taylor Swift and Beyoncé’s economic power. In the increasingly competitive digital media space, creating new jobs focusing on these artists might be a welcome strategy to keep pace with the swiftly changing landscape and cater to the fans’ constant need for updates.

Despite various opinions, these new positions highlight the present challenge for entertainment journalists—the volume of releases. Suzy Exposito, Los Angeles Times reporter, stressed, “The business of music is a numbers game,” and that keeping up with the new releases can be overwhelming hence the need for reporters who focus only on particular artists.

However, it’s a matter of debate if such artist-specific jobs represent the future of music journalism. Only a handful of musicians possess such an expansive cultural reach to warrant a dedicated reporter. But if a journalist can provide in-depth coverage rather than standard concert reports, their established expertise could prove invaluable. These new roles may usher in a significant shift in arts coverage, making space for more inclusive stories and challenging the traditional values of music journalism.