News & Politics

Do You Have What It Takes to Be the Taylor Swift Reporter?

We asked the Washington Post’s Taylor Swift expert about the viral job ad.

Taylor Swift's Eras tour. Photograph by Ronald Woan/Flickr.

Never has the phrase “do what you love” resonated so deeply within the Taylor Swift fandom than Tuesday afternoon when newspaper group Gannett announced it was hiring a Taylor Swift reporter. According to the job posting, the media company is looking for “an energetic writer, photographer and social media pro” to cover Swift and her cultural impact for USA Today and The Tennessean, a Nashville-based news outlet. 

As with most Swift-related happenings, the job instantly sparked a wave of intrigue online. Some people joked about hordes of Swiftie applicants while others pointed out that Gannett laid off six percent of its news employees in December. It’s safe to say that whoever is poring through the applications for this job needs to be Ready For It: There will likely be a barrage of resumes on par with the New York Times’s mega-popular 52 Places reporter posting a few years ago, which saw 13,000 hopefuls.

So, who might be the right fit for such a coveted position? We decided to turn to a local Swift expert for some insight. Emily Yahr has covered Swift for almost a decade as a pop culture reporter for the Washington Post, and she’s followed the singer/songwriter since her early days as a teenage newcomer on the country music scene. We asked Yahr for her thoughts on the role and whether she thinks a Swiftie could effectively cover TayTay:

What were your initial thoughts when you read the posting?

My first thought was this is a brilliant move in terms of going viral. It exploded. I’ve seen [the listing] so many places. It was definitely a really smart way to get attention from [applicants]. But also, it just makes a lot of sense. Especially this year, we’ve seen how Taylor Swift is her own economy, and so there are just so many aspects of her career to cover. There’s no end in sight for the amount of angles and story ideas that this reporter will have. It was a really smart move on [Gannett’s] part.

It sounds like you think this person will have more than enough material to make covering Swift a full-time job. 

Yeah, I’ve been writing about her for almost a decade, and to see her impact just keep growing and growing is kind of unprecedented. At the shows, there were people of all ages because now the people that discovered her when she was a teenager and have been listening to her music since 2006 have kids of their own, and they love Taylor Swift. Her fan base is just going to keep multiplying because the new generations are going to keep listening to her. And as she keeps going on the international tour and as she has more re-records to drop, there’s going to be more attention than ever. 

What kind of traits do you think the best person for this job should have?

The main one is in the ad itself, which I believe is something like “you should have a voice without bias.” I saw a lot of jokes about how Swifties are going to have to lie in the applications to get the job. On one hand, I think it is very important for [the reporter] to have a deep appreciation of Taylor Swift’s music and know everything there is to know about it because it’s a vast universe, and otherwise you would miss a lot—like the meaning behind what she does and why her fans connect with her in the way they do. But on the other hand, she’s an entrepreneur, she’s a CEO of a massive corporation, and this is a business. So I think it’s important to cover it from that angle, too. 

Do you think a Swiftie could do this job? Or would they be too biased to cover her from a neutral perspective?

It would probably be hard for a lot of people because it could be very easy to be blinded by the fandom aspect. There’s the sort of thinking among a lot of the Taylor fanbase that she can do no wrong. And so if you’re in that mindset, that would probably not be great because she does have flaws. She’s talked about them, she sings about them—that’s what makes her really interesting. I’m very curious how they’re going to separate the really extreme Swift fans from the people who love her music and have an understanding of it, but can also cover her objectively, too.

In the posting, they emphasize the video and social media aspects of the role. And just knowing how rooted the Taylor fanaticism is in TikTok, I feel like whoever takes the job has to be a pretty online person.

Oh, yeah. Definitely essential. [But] being so online, you are bombarded constantly with speculation and conspiracy theories—when her music’s going to come out, when she’s going to make an announcement about her next album—and some of them seem so convincing, it can be hard to separate them from reality. Being able to separate that will be a very important part of this job social media-wise because it’s easy to fall down so many rabbit holes.

And I would guess that whoever takes this job has to have a very thick skin and be ready to deal with internet trolls because covering someone with this level of fame comes with that.

Oh, yeah. The Taylor Swift fan base is no joke at all. Sometimes you’ll publish stories that are very straightforward and still, if it is not the exact angle some fans want, they will either tweet rude things at you or you’ll get a ton of emails. I can imagine that someone whose job is covering Taylor Swift on a full-time basis will get a lot of feedback. [They’ll] have to be ready for all manner of comments. I think a lot of Swifties probably will support them, but if there’s ever something they don’t like, [the reporter] will hear about it.

I’m just thinking about the poor soul who has to wade through the thousands of resumes they’ll get for this job—as someone who’s experienced all the rabbit holes of Swiftie-dom, do you think there will be a lot of unhinged applications?

I am trying to decide how much I would pay to be able to see this application process, especially because a video cover letter is part of it. The creativity and the depth of knowledge [Swifties] have about her work kind of scares me sometimes. Just being at the Eras Tour and seeing the costumes—I can’t imagine the lengths they’ll go to to put together a resume or a video cover letter for this job. I truly wish I could see it because I think it would be extremely impressive and maybe a little scary.

What advice would you give to whomever ends up taking this role?

Remember why fans relate to her the way they do. It’s easy to get distracted by her as a celebrity and a tabloid figure and all of the internet madness that follows her everywhere. But as a teenager, she was writing lyrics that no one else was, and it was often about topics that are deemed silly, like high school crushes and relationships and friendships. For a lot of people, being able to hear those lyrics—especially at formative times in their lives—really was life-changing. Someone was understanding what they were going through and articulating it and thinking about it in this way that was so relatable. At the end of the day, the lyrics in her songs really do mean a lot to people. And I think that’s good to remember as you’re covering everything that surrounds her.

Do you call yourself a Swiftie?

I do not. I’m not a critic. I’m a reporter. So I go about it very objectively. Obviously, I have listened to her music for a very long time and love a lot of her songs. I feel like I do understand why she means so much to so many people. But at the same time, again, I have to cover her objectively as a reporter, so I can’t, you know, wear a costume to the show.

And I have to ask—are you going to apply for this job?

I’m not. I think covering Taylor Swift is so fascinating. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job, but I like to write about many different subjects. So I think I will keep doing that.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mimi Montgomery Washingtonian
Home & Features Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She’s written for The Washington Post, Garden & Gun, Outside Magazine, Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Del Ray.