You know what’s crazy? I’ll tell you what’s crazy.™
The buzz that celebrity generates.
I come to the morning meeting and the best story I have is a mulch plant blowing dirty toxins into the air. It covers everyone’s car with filth, it gets in the air conditioning vents. Some people argue it is making them sick.
Some producers like the story. The boss hates it. Sadly newsrooms are not democracys.
“It sucks. What else you have?” he says looking at his iphone.
The cupboard is bare.
So I’m sitting there on a cold, rainy Monday and my fate is no longer my own.
I stare at my smart phone. It is dark and it doesn’t seem so smart.
Suddenly the morning producer says “We got an email from a woman who says she found hundreds of letters addressed to Taylor Swift in a South Nashville dumpster.
“Go do that,” The boss shouts.
And with that my name is on the board under the slug: TAYLOR SWIFT FAN MAIL..
Unless there is a bank robbery shoot out later, sadly, this will be my story.
Truth be told, I am hardly excited.
I have literally told thousands of stories in my career. I have been spit on, called an a**hole by the mayor, and had a brick thrown at my head during a live shot.
I’ve seen mommas cry and teenagers die in the street. I’ve broken stories and made a difference in my community.
But this truth I know.
Tell a story of a celebrity, and the interest level will grow exponentially.
Since I’m a crime reporter and not an entertainment reporter, how Taylor Swift’s fan mail got in a recycling dumpster is not that interesting to me. Not unless the mail was stolen by a renegade postal carrier who was looking for star contraband.
So I meet with the woman who found hundreds of letters. They are all addressed to superstar Taylor Swift. Some letters are open. Some letters are sealed. Some are covered with glitter and hearts and written in the hand of a child.
She tells me that she was recycling news papers on a Saturday when she looked in the recycle bin and there on top was the name Taylor Swift. She saw it once, then twice, then hundreds of times.
The letters were from Swift fans from all over the country, from all over the world.
The woman who found it called us because as she says, she knows how important the fans are to Swift. She thought that Taylor Swift should know that this had happened and if someone in her camp had done this purposefully, they should be held accountable.
The woman assures me that she has not opened any of the mail, and she says she has only looked at some of the correspondence.
She gives me the box of letters and I head to Music Row where Taylor Swift’s record company is.
I knock on the door and a young man comes out. He is casual in his demeanor.
I tell him that I am with the local abc affiliate and I have a box of letters addressed to Taylor Swift.
His face says “So F-in What” but his voice says; “yeah we represent her, but we don’t get her mail.”
About that time a food delivery guy arrives.
I can all ready feel like I am losing this music row guy to the food delivery guy. He is like a hungry lion on the Serengeti eyeing a water buffalo.
“Why don’t you go the Main St. Address in Hendersonville where the letters are all addressed,” he suggests.
A good idea I think to myself.
“This is 16th avenue South,” he says turning to the delivery man preparing to pay for a super burrito.
“I just want to give these fan letters to someone who cares,” I say closing the trunk.
“We’d be happy to take them from you,” but we don’t get her mail.”
“That’s OK,” i say. “I’ll figure it out.”
And with that I’m off to the station.
I find out the address is a strip mall in Hendersonville. The woman there confirms that they get boxes of Taylor Swifts fan mail and that someone comes by periodically and picks it up.
How this box of mail got into a dumpster she doesn’t know.
That’s when I get a call from Swift’s P.R. handler.
I tell her the story and she seems concerned.
“And you have all the mail with you?” she will ask me several times.
“Yep. It’s right here,” I say. “I just want to give it to someone who cares. And of course I want to know why unopened letters addressed to Taylor Swift in Hendersonville are in a dumpster in South Nashville.”
She promises me that she too wants an answer to this question and she will get back to me.
She’s not kidding.
Within half an hour she says she is sending over a courier to pick up the fan mail.
She also sends me a statement that says Swift gets 1000’s of pieces of mail a day. After mail is opened, it is recycled. She says that somehow mail headed for the recycler got mixed up with mail that had yet to be opened.
She calls it an accident.
That is a logical explanation. Somewhere deep inside my journalistic soul I still have some doubts.
I still wonder why a box of mail addressed to Hendersonville, Tennessee was discarded in South Nashville about half an hour away.
The box of mixed mail was transported by someone to a recycling dumpster in South Nashville. The dumpster is located at a school. I’m told the dumpster is only there certain times a year. I know the day I looked for it, I couldn’t find it.
But you know what? Nobody died. There is not some great corruption case here? Tax payer dollars are not being squandered.
Some mail ended up in a dumpster. Cripes, at least it was a “green collection” site.
Do I completely buy the story, no. But do I care so much that I am going to go all Water Gate on the P.R. lady? Hardly.
It is what it is.
I asked, she answered.
It seems plausible on almost every level. And since I have no contradictory evidence, I am willing to go with it.
The story surprisingly leads the 6pm news and it wins 2nd place.
It is easily the most viewed story on the web and now it is being picked up all over the country by E and CNN.
Because celebrity sells.
Will more come of this? Doubtful.
I’m sure Justin Bieber is out there punching a photographer as I speak.
The celebrity news cycle has a very short life span.
And that is crazy.™