So What Do You Do, Arienne Thompson, Entertainment Reporter at USA Today?


Arienne Thompson’s head is filled with golden pop-culture nuggets. But unlike most people who live and breathe all things celebrity, from Kimye’s fashion choices to Taylor Swift‘s relationship status, it’s her job to obsess over the minute details of celebrities’ lives. And there’s nothing she’d rather be doing. As an entertainment reporter at USA Today, Thompson knows who’s dating who, who wore what where and who’s got beef on everyone from Justin Beiber to Blake Lively to Beyoncé, so she can give pop-culture fiends their daily fix.

She spills the tea in the pages of the nation’s No. 1 newspaper in daily circulation, in USA Today‘s DailyDish vlog, and in the pages of USA Weekend, the paper’s weekend magazine. Sound cool? It is. But don’t get it twisted. Entertainment reporting is not for the faint of heart. You have to go hard. “You cannot be scared or shy or a wallflower. You can’t be psychotic — well, sometimes you have to be a little psychotic — but you have to be so aggressive,” Thompson explains.

Here, she serves up the scoop on how she went from being an extra in an America’s Most Wanted reenactment to being a sought-after pop-culture expert. 

Name: Arienne Thompson
Position: Entertainment reporter at USA Today
Resume: Began her career as a production assistant on America’s Most Wanted. Hired as an online producer at USA Today. Promoted to entertainment reporter in 2006.
Birthday: January 19, 1982
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
Education: Bachelor’s in history, Notre Dame; master’s in journalism, American University
Marital status: Engaged
Media mentor: Amy Eisman, a journalism professor at American University (“She’s someone I always asked for advice while I was at school, and I still reach out to her now.”)
Best career advice received: “There’s no one mantra. It’s just been getting encouragement along the way and people saying I did the right thing or made a smart move.”
Guilty pleasure: Peanut M&Ms, bad Lifetime movies and shopping
Last book read: Kate: The Future Queen, by Katie Nicholl (on CD audio)
Twitter handle: @ByArienne

How did you parlay your role at USA Today into regular TV show appearances?
When Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorced in 2012, Entertainment Tonight asked our publicity team if someone could come on the show and talk about the divorce. No one else wanted to do it, so my editor asked me. I’m the type who always says yes. The only TV experience I had under my belt at that time was standing in a park pointing at a man, saying, “That’s him!” during a reenactment for AMW. I had no clue what I was doing going in to ET, but I did it. And it wasn’t terrible. It was actually fun. The paper was getting more into videos around this time, so I started doing more stuff in front of the camera, including a live Oscars video we streamed in early 2013. That video was a lot of work, but it was great for me. It was serendipitous. The next day CNN called and asked if I could come on and talk about the five best Oscar moments. It kind of snowballed from there.

I got calls to do Access Hollywood, Showbiz Tonight and others. Then in June of 2013, producers at Today said they were launching a new segment called “Ticket to Hollywood.” The paper’s publicist suggested me. I kind of helped launch that segment. Not long after, we made a real commitment and decided I would do the show at least once a month. It was kind of the same situation with [Washington, D.C.’s CBS affiliate] WUSA. Now I do an entertainment segment there called “Buzz by Arienne” every Monday morning.