Taylor Swift is definitely in New Zealand, media in New Zealand determines

The possibility that Taylor Swift might be in New Zealand sent the news media and Swift fans on a ‘wild goose chase all over South Auckland’

It’s a test of the butterfly effect, updated for 2015: can an innocuous and wryly worded tweet, sent from Los Angeles International Airport, spark a “wild goose chase” and breakdown within news media on the other side of the world?

The possibility that Taylor Swift might be bound for New Zealand was first flagged in a wry tweet from the American author Maggie Shipstead at LAX.

It's like the old saying goes: when you see a Taylor Swift at the airport, you will have a pleasant flight to New Zealand.

— Maggie Shipstead (@MaggieShipstead) November 22, 2015

This corresponded with Swift’s conspicuous absence from the American Music Awards ceremony at the Microsoft Theatre in LA on Sunday, at which she was nominated for six awards (and later won three).

New Zealand media and Taylor Swift fans and the individuals intersecting the two raced to follow up Shipstead’s tweet, prompting what Fairfax news website stuff.co.nz described as a “wild goose chase, all over South Auckland”.

Both stuff.co.nz and the New Zealand Herald quoted Auckland comedian Melanie Bracewell’s tweet that she “just saw Taylor Swift at the Auckland Airport” on Monday morning which, it later transpired, was a joke.

I did this tweet as an experiment to see if it'd make the nz herald website and it worked pic.twitter.com/9PPib0JRau

— Melanie Bracewell (@meladoodle) November 22, 2015

Stuff.co.nz amended their story.

Someone's mad at ya @meladoodle pic.twitter.com/22LmAS8DPe

— Jessica McAllen (@Jess_McAllen) November 23, 2015

A string of others followed suit.

I saw @TaylorSwift13 doing the tactile maze at the bottom of SkyCity Metro #EDGETaylorSwiftWatch

— Sam Smith (@ReelBigSmith) November 23, 2015

Taylor Swift is driving around Westfield St Lukes trying to find a park

— James Roque (@jamesroque) November 23, 2015

A high school student posted to Facebook that Swift had been spotted at a shipping and marine supplier in an east Auckland suburb for some reason. The Herald’s entertainment writer Chris Schulz followed up with a phone call, which he reported on Tuesday:

The nice lady who answered the phone told us there was indeed a single film crew on location but “that isn’t unusual ... and they’re just finishing up for the day”. She also admitted she wouldn’t know what Taylor Swift looked like if she was standing in front of her.

“So, Taylor Swift, where in the world are you?” concluded Schulz’s story.

Despite being in her home town for the annual celebration of her success, the New Zealand Music Awards, known Swift associate Lorde unhelpfully did nothing to fuel or dispel the rumours on social media.

On Monday afternoon the Herald reported that “Taylor Swift probably isn’t in New Zealand”.

But soap actor Ido Drent then confirmed that he had been on the same flight from LA with Swift, his statement that she was “definitely here” replacing Bracewell’s joke tweet as the news media’s most promising lead.

Drent was “changing his son’s nappy on-board flight NZ3 when he claimed he stumbled across the Bad Blood popstar”, reported One News: “Yeah, had a good chat to her on the plane outside the lavatory.”

On Tuesday morning the Herald reported that “Taylor Swift is definitely in New Zealand,” verified by her label Universal Music.

Guardian Australia can confirm that Swift arrived at Auckland International airport on the NZ3 flight direct from Los Angeles on Saturday 21 November, as speculated, in a party of eight.

She did not have a return flight booked, but it seems reasonable to assume that she will fly to Sydney before her show there on Saturday.

Reliable sources say she is in New Zealand to shoot the video for her next single from 1989, thought to be Out of the Woods.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Andrew Hornery put a rumour that she would be shooting in the Blue Mountains on Thursday to Universal and was told: “Look I can’t tell you anything. I’m not trying to throw you a curve ball ... and don’t quote me.”

3News reporter Hayden Donnell followed up with Shipstead to ask her “whether it was weird stumbling into the middle of a possibly fake news story in a small country at the bottom of the world”.

“She said it was definitely weird, but the story was real.”

The saga had shades of the Ryan Gosling hunt of 2012, when a possible sighting of The Notebook star on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road sparked a Tumblr page (“Hey Girl, I Love New Zealand”) and #NZGoslingHunt to trend nationally.


Elle Hunt

The GuardianTramp

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