As the lights dimmed in the new U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, my best friends and fellow Swifties began to scream in excitement, throwing our hands up in the air as smoke lifted, the screens on stage parted and our idol walked in amid “Ready For It..?”
Before Taylor Swift took her stage on Saturday, Sept. 1, a series of images of “old Taylors” splashed across two large screens towering over the stage, overlayed by snippets of gossip columnists and radio announcers trying to decode the latest information about Swift, whether or not it was true. Close-up images of a moving, slithering snake began to fill the screen.
You’re probably familiar with Swift and her latest album, “Reputation.” The 28-year-old country-turned-pop star sure has one, and like any young woman, she wants it to be accurate. Unlike many women, she’s constantly in the spotlight, being dissected and scrutinized for every choice she makes. I’m not going to get into how unfair that is, except to say she fought back admirably, and overcame.
In the midst of my excitement to see the woman who brought me through my own teenage years into adulthood by singing my emotions right back to me, I also thought about my profession. Throughout her two-hour set, and her album in general, she talks about truth — what it means and how it can be twisted depending on how it’s told.
As journalists, myself and those in newsrooms across the country are constantly chasing the truth, trying to get as close to it as we can — even if it doesn’t want to be found. While I got chills watching Swift’s video collage, and pride at seeing how she turned so much negativity into a beautiful album and international stadium tour, I also couldn’t help but worry, just a tiny bit, in the back of my mind: What if people mistake rumors for news?
Because there is a distinct difference between “news” from the paparazzi about a celebrity based on unconfirmed, anonymous reports and the breaking news reporters are scrambling to get right every day in our communities. The rumors that have swirled around Swift the last couple of years are horrendous, but they are just that: rumors.
It’s so important to tell the truth — Swift’s show exemplifies that — and to share that truth, as journalists exemplify every day. We can all learn from someone like her. We can try to be better consumers of news, try to research where our information is coming from. As journalists, we can strive to report as accurately as possible, using verified information and minimal anonymous sources. Fortunately, Swift has a huge platform to share her own truth. While she’s out there sharing hers, journalists across the country are working to share theirs, many times on much smaller platforms.
Uncovering information in the digital age can be overwhelming because there is so much, but that’s why it is more important than ever to make sure we, as reporters, are doing our jobs meticulously, from writing about a city council meeting to national election coverage.
Because the truth, as Swift reminds us, is delicate. And it is our job to protect it.