Zach Petroff | Opinion Editor
There is little in this life that strikes terror in my heart anymore.
My exposure to gunfire, explosions and authority has built a tolerance for the once-panic inducing scenarios. An avid lover of haunted houses and the horror genre, I have found I have become almost numb to many things that invoke terror.
There is one group that still instills a healthy level of dread in me. An organization of fierce and loyal followers who are well-funded and extremely organized. A group known for their young indoctrination and inciting radical change when in the best interest of the collective group.
It is a group, like many apex predators, that I both respect and have a healthy fear of.
This group, of course, is the Swifties.
A Swiftie, according to one of the definitions on Urban Dictionary, is “A Taylor Swift fan that places her above God. You will find more success hiring a Swiftie than a (public investigator). They pick up on everything. And assemble armies on Twitter if someone insults one of the hairs on her head.”
That does not sound like a group I would want bad blood with.
Swift has found herself in the middle of a miniature controversy when it was announced that she and mega-star Beyoncé are getting their own personal journalist.
Gannett, America’s largest publisher of newspapers based on circulation, is looking to hire an “energetic writer, photographer and social media pro,” according to the job posting on Diversityjobs.com
“Seeing both the facts and the fury, the Taylor Swift reporter will identify why the pop star’s influence only expands, what her fanbase stands for in pop culture and the effect she has across the music and business worlds,” the job posting stated.
This is not an unusual beat, as there have been plenty of prominent figures such as presidents and athletes like LeBron James that have been worthy of having one journalist cover them.
However, the timing seems to come at a peculiar time. Gannett, which owns more than 200 daily papers, cut its workforce last year. There were 400 employees laid off in August 2022, and another 6% of its news division was let go in December.
The Associated Press reported that the Gannett workforce has shrunk 47% in the last three years because of layoffs and attrition. At some newspapers, it has been said that the headcount has fallen by as much as 90%
The question is: How can Gannett spend resources, thus prioritizing coverage of pop stars, while local news coverage is becoming increasingly scarce across the country?
It’s just a question, but perhaps instead of making Swift the villain, she could be the anti-hero local newspapers need.
I am new to the journalism game. I am too new to care about the nuances of print media, but my strategy in the near future is to get my printed work in front of as many eyeballs as possible. I believe that the more people that see my writing, the better opportunities I will have. If more people are picking up the publications because of the cover story, that means more people will likely read my story on the fifth page.
It seems that the mega-pop queens whose reputations precede them would generate a new and plentiful audience to newspapers. This is an opportunity to also tell some compelling and relevant stories about the culture that can come from covering these icons.
This brings us closer to the conversation that we as a country need to have.
As of June, the U.S. is losing two newspapers a week, leaving about 7%, or 211 counties, without newspapers, according to Northwestern University. The current economic model in which modern newspapers operate is not sustainable nor relevant.
TikTok and Facebook are not going to save the newspaper industry.
What is going to save it is good reporting – well done, accurate reporting that is both compelling and diverse. In order to do that, you need resources.
Click chasing, printed advertisers and paywalls are not the answer. They were not the answer 22 years ago, and they are not the answer today. It’s a model that the newspaper industry should break up and never ever get back together with. Ever.
The answer seems obvious, as if it has been there all along. The answer seems obvious, and to ignore it is to tolerate it, which I can no longer do.
It is time we start nationalizing local newspapers. Steve Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America agrees. In an opinion piece he wrote for the Columbia Journalism Review he claims that while it’s understandable to be hesitant to be funded by the government, newspapers have a history of taking subsidies. He cites the Postal Act of 1792 that gave a lower postage rate to newspapers to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 which he claimed helped create the modern system of public TV and radio by providing subsidies to local public broadcasting stations.
“It’s also worth noting that we have had no problem with the government providing massive packages of assistance to American industries that were deemed important to the country, including the auto industry and the financial sector,” Waldman said. “A vibrant, free local press is as important to the country as those industries.”
However popular Beyoncé and Swift are, the coverage may just be a delay in the inevitable, or it could be the push the industry needs to realize that saving journalism requires innovative thinking that cannot be cured by tear drops on a guitar.