The wait is over: Gannett, the biggest newspaper chain in the U.S., finally announced their hire for the highly coveted Taylor Swift reporter job at USA Today. The lucky Swiftie is 35-year-old Bryan West.
It’s no wonder USA Today was looking for a reporter to cover Swift full-time. The now-billionaire superstar has become an economic powerhouse this year with her record-breaking Eras Tour and the $100 million box office hit Eras Tour movie. She’s reshaping the music industry with the stunning successes of her re-recording projects, most recently 1989 (Taylor’s Version). Swift’s impact was even noted in a Federal Reserve economic report, while analysts call the boost she gives to local economies the “TSwift Lift.”
Her influence even extends to the NFL and beyond, as her romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce drives her legions of fans to the stadiums donning Chiefs jerseys. Swift’s first appearance at a Chiefs game led Heinz to release a limited-edition “Ketchup and Seemingly Ranch” sauce after the pop singer was spotted eating chicken with both sauces. And the genesis story of the couple’s relationship has boosted sales at craft suppliers like Michaels after fans learned that Kelce gifted Swift a friendship bracelet after seeing her perform.
West is, of course, a Swiftie. In his video resume, in which he listed 13 reasons why he’s the right fit for the job, he described meeting Swift in person, joking, “Our ears touched and I thought for a second, ‘I could be straight.’”
But his credentials include serious journalism, too. After graduating from Northwestern University, West worked as a morning show planner, an investigative producer, and then a broadcast reporter in Phoenix. He’s also won several awards for his work, including two Emmys, a Murrow, and a duPont.
“I would say this position’s no different than being a sports journalist who’s a fan of the home team,” West told Variety of his new gig. “I just came from Phoenix, and all of the anchors there were wearing Diamondbacks gear; they want the Diamondbacks to win. I’m just a fan of Taylor and I have followed her her whole career, but I also have that journalistic background: going to Northwestern, winning awards, working in newsrooms across the nation.”
“I think that’s the fun of this job is that, yeah, you can talk Easter eggs, but it really is more of the seriousness, like the impact that she has on society and business and music,” he added.
Bloggers, influencers, political reporters all applied
When Gannett listed the job in September—along with a Beyoncé reporter position—some speculated that it was merely a publicity stunt and the publication wasn’t looking for a legitimate journalist for the role. After all, “anything she touches turns to gold,” as one fan put it. But Michael Anastasi, the Tennessean’s editor and Gannet’s vice president of local news, told Variety that this assumption was wrong.
Applicants “ran the gamut from veteran hard-news reporters, including at least one very established White House reporter, to Swifties who have blogs and are influencers…and of course there were a number of fans who just were following their dreams and hoping to win the lottery,” Anastasi said.
“But what we ended up with was someone who I think has the great balance between being a veteran journalist who has serious news chops and someone who understands everything about Taylor’s world and the universe that he’s stepping into,” he added.
West will work out of the Tennesean’s newsroom for USA Today and the chain’s local daily papers, but he’ll be doing more than just writing on Swift.
“He’s going to be on video, going to be on social, going to be interacting with Swifties, and going to be out and about at tour stops, on red carpets, at the CMAs, wherever people are enjoying or reflecting on who Taylor Swift is,” Ben Goad, Tennessean news director and West’s manager, told Variety.
“There’s no shortage of things to write.”