EARLIER THIS WEEK, Gannett, the largest newspaper chain in the United States, posted job ads for reporters dedicated to two exclusive beats: Taylor Swift and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter.
One of the ads asked for a multi-hyphenate writer, photographer and social media expert with “an undeniable thirst for all things Taylor Swift”, and the other for a reporter to “tap into stories about the Beyhive”, aka Beyoncé’s fans.
Both journalists will write remotely for Gannett’s national paper, USA Today, as well as the Tennessean in Nashville, where Swift got her start in country music. Their work may also appear in around 200 local Gannett papers, and will reportedly earn between $21.63 ($33) and $50.87 ($76) an hour.
An executive for Gannett explained that the artists are such powerful cultural forces that they demand dedicated reporting. “Taylor Swift is an artist and businesswoman whose work has tremendous economic, cultural and societal significance,” Kristin Roberts, Gannett Media chief content officer, said in a statement. “She is shaping a generation and is relevant, influential and innovative—just like us.”
Roberts described Beyoncé, meanwhile, as: “A force in the world of business, music, fashion and our culture,” and said: “Our role is to cover the newsmakers who Run the World, influence our society, impact lives and create positive change” in a rather creative piece of PR drivel.
Obviously, these are dream jobs for a certain type of person. Both artists are cultural powerhouses and both incite near myopic devotion among their respective fan bases. There will no doubt be legions of Swifties and members of the Beyhive who will eagerly apply for these plum roles—one of the challenges recruiters may face is separating the merely obsessed from those who name their firstborns after the artists. As such, it’s doubtful candidates will be asked to prove their Swifty or Bey bona fides. You can safely assume anyone who applies is well-versed in their respective tribal lore.
As one commenter on X quipped: “heaven help whoever has to review applications for that Taylor swift reporter job”.
Given the nature of the roles and the fanbases they will cater to, it is probably asking too much to expect a great deal of frank and fearless journalism to emerge from these positions. Why poke a digital hornet’s nest with something as explosively provocative as neutral reporting? What will be interesting is how deep these reporters will be required to go in combing for news and feeding the insatiable appetite for content among fans. Should we expect breathless reports on Swift’s breakfast or Bey’s bowel movements? Why not? There are worse ways to earn $75 an hour.
It is interesting that Gannet is actually hiring for these roles, especially given the company axed 400 jobs last year. You would have assumed it would be able to find suitable candidates from within its entertainment division. The inescapable conclusion here is that it wanted the publicity it knew would come from advertising these roles—which perhaps explains that ‘Run the World’ line in Roberts’ statement.
Swift, of course, is not only a cultural force, she’s fast becoming an economic one, creating jobs and inviting scholarship—there’s a class on the artist at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, while her latest world tour continues to crush ticket websites. Members of Congress have recited the artist’s lyrics in congressional hearings, and several cities have been symbolically “renamed” to honour the pop star. Given her output and cultural omnipotence, you begin to wonder if one reporter is enough?
Dedicated beat reporters are reasonably common for global leaders, presidents and politicians. Even public figures, such as Elon Musk, have previously had reporters assigned to them, while in 2014, the Plain Dealer newspaper and Cleveland.com sought to hire a LeBron James reporter. What I would have given to be a Michael Jordan reporter in the 1990s…
But exclusively covering pop stars is new and will likely set a precedent, begging the question: who’s going to be next to get a reporter assigned to them? Rihanna is an obvious target, inspiring similar levels of fandom to Swift and Beyonce, while possessing sizeable business interests and a growing family. Among male artists, there would be many lining up to report on the minutiae of Harry Styles’ or Justin Bieber’s day-to-days. Among actors, post-Titanic Leo definitely could have done with a beat reporter, while Timothée Chalamet is already the kind of digital eyeball magnet that could only benefit from deeper and more concentrated content mining.
A final word of warning, if you are a Swifty or Beyhiver looking to apply for your dream job. It might be wise to heed the age-old advice of being careful what you wish for before you submit your application. When passions become ‘work’ it can quickly kill the joy. It’s easy to see a weary Swift reporter lamenting “another fuckin’ re-recording”. Or a Bey scribe’s hands cramping after delivering another 500 words on a concert outfit change. Or just finding new synonyms for the phrase “awe-inspiring”. It might be a tougher gig than you think.
Craziest celebrity jobs
Nipple pincher – Pink
The pop rocker reportedly keeps a personal nipple pincher on staff, requiring them to perform the duty just before she goes on stage. Hey, it’s a job.
Battery carrier – Ludacris
In the early 2000s Ludacris had an assistant whose job was to carry spare batteries for his Game Boy and change them when they were empty. Presumably screen death during Pokémon Yellow is a sackable offence.
Speedboat follower to retrieve basketballs – Larry Ellison
The Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison is a keen baller and installed a half-court on his private yacht, which, of course, necessitates employing someone to follow him on a speedboat to retrieve some of the ‘bricks’ he chucks up.
Human alarm clock – Mark Wahlberg
Wahlberg is well known for his 2-4am starts. Why trust an alarm clock when you can get an assistant to make beeping noises instead?
Shoe security – Nick Young
Baller ‘Swaggy P’ got robbed of his prized Red October sneakers back in 2015, which is why he takes precautions these days, hiring two men to watch over his kicks.
Bedtime cuddler – Lady Gaga
In 2013, Lady Gaga’s former personal assistant, Jennifer O’Neill, sued her boss for unpaid overtime. Among the many allegations O’Neill made were that Gaga required her to sleep in bed alongside her boss.