The appointment of Bryan West as the Taylor Swift reporter for Gannett’s The Tennessean and USA TODAY Network has sparked controversy. West, who openly admitted to being a fan of Taylor Swift, compared his approach to covering the pop star to that of a sports journalist covering a home team. This analogy did not sit well with many journalists, who felt that it was evidence of bias that would negatively impact West’s reporting.
West’s comments also stirred up resentment among sports journalists, who feel that their work is often not taken seriously by the rest of the newsroom. They argue that, contrary to popular belief, sports journalists are capable of much more than just covering sports. They have a unique ability to handle high-stress situations and be uniquely positioned to comment on larger societal issues, such as the intersection of sports and politics.
Moreover, it was felt that West’s comments demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding of how journalism works, despite his credentials. He seemed to not understand the need for unbiased reporting and was focused more on the entertainment aspect of his role as a reporter.
On the other hand, Ben Goad, the Tennessean news director, defended West’s hiring and envisioned a broad role for him, encompassing various media formats and interaction with Swift’s fanbase, the “Swifties.” Goad’s comparison to specific news media coverage of famous individuals was met with skepticism.
Finally, the opinion arose that while it makes sense for large media organizations to cover pop stars as their impact goes beyond music, it is crucial to choose reporters wisely. The criticism of the choice of Bryan West indicates that consumers expect the highest level of professionalism and impartiality from those who cover celebrities, no matter the medium.
The addition of a Beyoncé reporter to the team was also announced, and the expectation is that Gannett will make a more careful choice this time, perhaps emphasizing diversity in their hires.