Today we continue our Women in Sports celebration with a very out spoken and opinionated sports reporter. Jen Royle is a former YES Network reporter now back in her home town of Boston. If you want a reporter that has tremendous knowledge of sports, strong opinions, and a fiesty persona, Jen Royle is your girl! We could not be happier that Jen spent some time to answer a few questions. Many people have called this beautiful and talented reporter a bit controversial. I can say, Jen was an absolute pleasure to speak with.
After reading this interview, Jen has a question for you the readers….
Jen, can you tell our readers a little bit about what made you decide to get into the sports industry?
Well, I struggled throughout high school and even college with my career choice. I literally had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do even by the age of 25. So for anyone out there who thinks they’re running out of time to build a career, you’re not. Trust me. Wait until you know exactly what you want to do and then start the full-on pursuit of following your dream. I can honestly say I lucked out in more ways than one when it came to me having the opportunity to cover sports…
I was working for a fashion trade show company in Boston that actually was sold to a major corporation in New York City. Without hesitation, I asked for a job transfer and within six months I was on my way to The Big Apple, paid in full. I broke up with my boyfriend of four years, packed up my stuff and left. It was a no-brainer. I then quit that job after the required six months and got a job with a major women’s fashion designer where I would eventually head up the entire PR department. That company was then bought by Liz Claiborne and I ended up with a big cushiony job in NYC for the next five years.
But I STILL wasn’t happy. I was sitting in my office every day listening to sports radio, and I had Sports Illustrated covers on my walls. Whenever a male came into our female-dominated office to fix the water cooler or fax machine, I was in his face asking him what he thought about the big game that night. So eventually I thought maybe it was time I pursued a job in sports.
I had a friend who worked for ESPN, and one day we were having lunch and his agent was coincidentally at the same restaurant doing other business. We ended up talking about Ty Law and Lawyer Milloy (Obviously, members of the Patriots defense at the time) and of course we ended up arguing about the Red Sox and Yankees. I recall the agent telling me I knew way too much about sports to work in fashion and the sports industry could use a passionate and feisty female reporter. So he set me up with an interview at the YES Network, the broadcasting arm of the New York Yankees, and I was hired a week later.
…And here I am.
You’ve been in New York, Boston, Baltimore, and now back in Boston. I have to put you on the spot and ask which city you prefer?
Well, it’s very hard to argue that New York City is not the most amazing city in the world. And I absolutely loved the ten years I spent there. In fact, it changed my life in so many ways. So, I think my answer would be New York for many reasons. First, I hate to drive and you don’t drive in New York, so that’s a bonus right there. And I am a city gal. Every day I discovered something new and exciting the city had to offer just from walking around, whether it be a new grocery store, restaurant, bar or even a great little clothing store. And last, I love to eat. And the best thing about NYC is there is literally every kind of food at your fingertips 24 hours a day. I miss lying in bed on a Saturday and having my breakfast delivered in 15 minutes or having a pizza walked over at 4 a.m. So with all that being said, definitely New York.
But right now, Boston is where I want to be. I made the choice to return home and I’m very happy with my decision. I’ve already started reconnecting with old friends and I’m looking forward to experiencing the city of Boston the same way I did New York. I’ve been away for nearly 15 years so it’s great to now be closer to my family and back with the sports teams I grew up rooting for. I think the city of your choice depends on the stage your life is in. Ten years ago New York was my choice, but today it’s Boston.
Oh, and Baltimore would most certainly not be an option.
You are one of the more active sports personalities on Twitter. How important is it for you to stay connected to your fans and followers using social media?
Very important. I think one of the scariest things about being a public sports figure is actually putting yourself out there to be criticized and judged. Some people do, some people don’t. I suppose it depends on your personality and how much you’re willing to share with the public.
For me, I live my life by the motto, “Go big or go home.” And let’s be honest, people are going to judge me without knowing a thing about me or my life regardless…So I may as well give them the truth.
If you knew me personally you’d know I’m an open book and I wear pretty much every feeling out on my sleeve. When I moved to Baltimore, the fan base was so curious as to who I was because I wasn’t from the Mid-Atlantic market, and the majority, if not all of their sports reporters were. I was a TV reporter there but I was also a radio “personality.” So for me, it was important for me to let my audience get to know me as a person so they didn’t judge me solely on my sports views.
In general, do you think women in the sports industry are respected enough? What challenges are still out there?
Umm…respected? I think it varies from person to person. Personally, I don’t think women sports reporters in general can be lumped together so it’s hard to answer that question. I think it depends on how hard you work, how you carry yourself, how you treat other people on a daily basis along the way, your level of sports knowledge, your ability to work well with others, and so forth.
I know a few women who would flunk a sports quiz in a heartbeat yet they have great jobs because they can read a teleprompter like nobody’s business and they look good doing it. I know I can’t. I know other women who have gotten incredible sports jobs because they were former beauty queens and have the right poise to be on camera, but could never co-host a sports radio show because they don’t have a strong enough opinion and don’t care enough about the actual content. And I know females who are terrible on camera, but are incredible writers and know more about sports than the average man.
We are all very different and all have different talents, strengths and weaknesses. And that doesn’t make one better than the other. I think it’s unfair and literally impossible to lump us all in the same category. And in terms of respect, I think all of us women are on the same page when I say this, the rumors that are spread about us in terms of our involvement with athletes are disgusting and usually false. I have been linked to players I have never even met or have literally had a handful of professional conversations with at their locker and it makes you wonder where the hell that crap comes from. Male reporters can talk to players as long as they want in a locker room and they’ll never be a rumor about them.
A radio station in Baltimore linked me publicly to a player that I’ve had maybe maybe maybe three conversations with and never saw outside of the locker room.” Total head-scratcher and completely hurtful and wrong on so many levels… And people start to believe that BS, which is sad an despicable. I can honestly say I have obtained some breaking news about a player and kept it to myself in fear of there being a rumor started. How sad is that? So I guess I can actually answer your question, as a whole, NO we are not respected. And shame on the individuals to start false rumors about women who are simply trying to do their job.
It’s a beast and a fight you’ll never win.
You’ve been called a controversial figure. Why do you think that is?
Because I have an opinion and I’m not afraid to voice it. If I disagree with you, I will tell you so with absolutely no fear. I will always defend what I believe in and I will never back down from an argument if I feel strongly about the subject matter. I also don’t take crap from anyone. If you want to insult or question my work or my character, prepare to be counter-attacked.
I also think social media has gotten out of control in ways that can only get worse for society. For example, anyone can start a twitter account and tell you that your mother is a whore or they can start “Joe’s Sports Blog” and find every mistake you’ve ever made in your career and dedicate a page to how much Joe thinks you suck. And both are out there for the world to see. Yet, if Joe found five of my mistakes out of 100 appearances, nobody will find the other 95 and start a blog about how great you are. It’s disgusting and in my opinion, female sports reporters get the bulk of the nastiness because we are easy targets. I have a lot of female friends who are sports reporters and if we got together and exposed the hate and filth that has been sent to us on a regular basis, you would be appalled and ashamed of your gender. At some point, the hate has got to stop. I know I can’t change the world, but if I can tell one smart-ass kid who’s tweeting from his mom’s basement to grow up, get some class and stop contributing to what has become such a negative society we all live in, I will.
Are you now where you want to be in your career? Or do you have further aspirations and goals?
I am. I am. I am currently in detox from my two-year Baltimore experience and finally taking a little time off for myself. I’ve been out of Massachusetts for nearly 15 years and it’s been so great to just chill out and hold my nephew for more than a day before I have to catch a plane home. My father passed away five years ago so it’s been nice to spend time with my mother who is alone in the house I grew up in. My grandfather is 91 years old and has been going downhill lately, so I’ve been spending time with him, cooking for him and keeping his spirits up as well. I also have brunch every Sunday with my two cousins, Kim and Sue, so it’s been nice to catch up with them and gossip about our crazy family for a few hours on the wekeend.
I can honestly say I would be ok if I never set foot in another locker room. I have been covering games and teams for nearly a decade now and I’m finally ready to maybe be a part of a sports show in a studio or even co-host another radio show. I lugged my computer and microphone to the ballparks a few too many times…I think I’m ready for a change and a little stability in my life.
As far as female sports reporters go, do you all kind of stick together as a group, or do you all do your own thing?
I wouldn’t say we stick together but for the most part we are all friends. I mean, like any group of women, there are some “divas” who think they are too cool for school that some of us tend to keep at arm’s length. And we’re all on the same page with those girls. And there are a couple of girls who are…I guess you could say young and just don’t understand that being a bitch will get you nowhere, not only in this industry but in life. I have zero respect for women in this industry who do not treat people with kindness. My other motto in life is, “treat people the way you want to be treated.” If you can’t wrap your brain around that concept and execute it in the workplace, you have your own issues. And trust me, people take notice.
My agent once told me a network heard I was “difficult to work with” and it crushed me. Ended up, they had me confused with somebody else who had worked at the same place I had. See, it’s a small industry and word travels fast about how you interact with others.
Of course we don’t all get along. We’re women!
Are there any that you have particularly become friends with?
Of course. Tina Cervasio, former Red Sox/NESN reporter, and I are very good friends and make significant efforts to talk on a regular basis and meet for dinner. Trenni Kusnierek, formerly of the MLB Network who now works in her hometown of Milwaukee, is an absolute gem. And like me, she’s not afraid to give her opinion so I have the utmost respect for her. Also Katie Strange, New York hockey writer from ESPN-NY, is one of my best friends on the planet and I’m so proud of her and what she’s been able to accomplish in her young career. Rachel Nichols, I’ve known since she was a writer in DC, and it’s been simply awesome to watch her become such an amazing television star. Side note: The best thing about Rachel is she has not changed one bit over the years and I think that says a lot about her character. I think Reischea Canidate, formerly of Fox Sports New York and now with ESPN, is fabulous. Reish and I covered the Yankees and Mets together for years, and like Rachel, it’s been great to see her achieve success on a major platform.
We are all friends but most important, we all root for each other. And to me, that’s most important. It’s a tough business, regardless of your gender, because it’s so competitive. And for us women, it’s nice to support each other and be each other’s biggest fans. There are definitely a couple of women in our circle who do not do that…but it’s their loss. I would think it would be a very lonely existence in this industry if you don’t have fellow female reporters pulling for you and maybe even putting in a good word.
I got a text message from a fellow sports reporter that read, “Heard (Jane Doe) turned down the NESN job that you didn’t get. But hope your campaign works out.” And that quote came from a 25 something year old.
And I thought to myself…Wow, you must really hate yourself. To me, for another human being in this business to send that to someone…that person has serious personal issues. Karma is a bitch, that’s all I have to say.
You recently participated in a charity event in which a date with you was auctioned off. What was that experience like? What will the date be?
I did. I participated in “Project Cupid” which benefited The Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber who raise money for children’s cancer research. It was an absolute honor to be part of such an amazing event but also it was extremely heart-warming to know that my small part may play a major role in a sick child’s life. I was auctioned off for $600 to a really sweet man, but Catherine Varitek, wife of Jason Varitek, donated an extra $500 to my highest bidder which brought my grand total to $1,100. My date is simple, too…dinner and drinks at a cool restaurant in Boston. Nothing fancy.
Looking back on your career so far, is there an interview you would say is your favorite? What about one particular event you have covered?
Honestly all of them because I learn something new each time I sit with somebody. I guess some highlights are Joe Torre, Charlie Manuel, Andrew Bailey (new Red Sox closer), Josh Hamilton, Jorge Posada, off the top of my head. I put so much effort and research into my interviews and my goal is to have a player walk away and say, “ya know what, she did a good job. She was prepared, knew the material and was a pleasure to talk with.” The last thing you want is for a player to say, “Man that chick was hot. But she was dumb as rocks.”
There’s a couple events that certainly stand out in my mind: First, Red Sox Opening Day at Fenway Park in 2005 when the team received their 2004 World Series rings. I was actually there covering the Yankees – obviously the Red Sox’ opponent that day – so it was cool to be able to see the fans enjoy something they had been waiting 86 years for. The game was also close to my mother’s birthday and one of my brothers had gotten my parent’s tickets so it was nice to be there for work and know my mom and dad (who is no longer with us) was in the stands. I’m glad my father got to experience that day since he was probably the biggest Sox fan alive and I had witnessed him getting his heart broken a dozen times.
The New York Yankees 2009 World Series is another one that comes to mind. I’m usually not a fan of the team(s) I cover but in October of 2009 I most certainly was. I knew that was my best chance to cover a championship baseball team so in my heart I wanted the Yankees to go all the way. I had been covering the team for seven years and I also knew I’d be likely moving to Baltimore since CBS Radio had already contacted me for a job in 2010. So I wanted to end my time with the Yankees on a good note. And I did.
And last, I’d say 2008 for the MLB All-Star Game which was also the closing of the old Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. It was such an incredible year to be a baseball reporter or fan in New York because the old stadium brought out so many great athletes and legendary Yankees of the past. I recall being in the elevator with Tiger Woods and seeing Michael Jordan in the Yankees’ clubhouse that year. Reggie Jackson and Yogi Berra seemed to be around more often, too. It was such a tourist attraction because everyone knew it would be torn down shortly after the new stadium opened in 2009, which was the year the Yankees won the World Series. That was also an incredible All-Star Game if I recall. The game went into the 15th inning and the American League ended up winning right before they ran out of pitchers. Terry Francona, rival Red Sox manager, was the manager of the AL team and was sitting in Joe Girardi’s seat in the Yankees home dugout, but had Girardi on his coaching staff, which was a class move. The whole thing was very weird and awesome at the same time.
And the last game at the old stadium was extremely memorable because they allowed the reporters to go on the field with the players and take photos. So it was pretty awesome to be standing on such prime real estate with 55,000 fans still in their seats. I have so many memories of Yankee Stadium as a professional but all of my childhood memories as an actual baseball fan are from Fenway Park. I think I’m one of the rare few who have seen what I tihnk is the greatest rivalry in sports history from both sides of the coin.
Jen ended the interview with a question for us and our readers….
Question: Do you still wonder why I’m controversial?
Previous Women’s History Month Interviews:Tina Cervasio – (MSG Reporter) Jennie Finch – (Softball, Olympics)