As my “Life and Times of a Sports Journalist” series continues, up next is one of Boston’s up and coming journalists, Jen McCaffrey. Jen is a Red Sox beat reporter for MassLive.com. Prior to MassLive.com, the Syracuse grad spent three years as a sports reporter for the Cape Cod Times.
CW: According to your LinkedIn page, I see you’ve been involved in sports media and journalism since 2008 starting as an intern at WEEI and now currently a Red Sox beat writer for MassLive.com. What made you want to enter the world of sports media in Boston? Are you originally from the Boston area, and did you come from a big sports family growing up?
JM: I grew up about an hour south of Boston in Seekonk, Mass. and always loved baseball and sports in general. I’d watch just about whatever game was on the that night with my dad and then scour the newspaper (we got the Providence Journal) for more information the next day. I grew up playing softball, but I was a much better spectator of sports than athlete myself.
JM: I always loved writing and reading so sometime in high school I decided to combine my two passions. Easier said than done, of course. I got a great education and great opportunities at Syracuse University, which led to my first internship which was in 2008 on the Dale and Holley Show. That led to an internship the next summer in 2009 at WEEI.com, which was the first year they had launched the site. That was an amazing experience working for the site and covering the New England Revolution and the Red Sox. I interned for a newspaper in Syracuse called the Post Standard while I was a senior there and then after graduation I freelanced for a while for ESPNHS.com and the New Bedford Standard Times before eventually finding my first full-time job at the Cape Cod Times and now MassLIve. So it’s been a long journey, but it’s been worth it.
CW: What does a typical game day look like for you? Do you go on road trips with the team as well?
JM: I do travel with the Red Sox. But traveling with the team basically means you meet them at the park. Every beat writer makes his/her own travel arrangements, hotels, etc. So half of your job is booking flights that get in early enough to arrive at the park in time, and booking hotels that aren’t too far away from the park for when you walk back at night. For a typical game at Fenway, I arrive around 2:30pm, the Red Sox clubhouse opens at 3:30 so I’ll do any pregame prep I need to do, write a post on the lineup for that day, etc. Clubhouse is usually open for about 50 minutes from 3:30 to 4:20 so if I need to do any interviews before the game with players or coaches, that’s a good time. John Farrell meets with the media around 4:15 so we’ll go talk to him to get any updates, etc. then I’ll either head out to batting practice on the field if I need to grab a guy for an interview that I might not have been able to get during the clubhouse time or I’ll head up to the press box to write-up anything important out of our session with Farrell. The game starts at 7 and I’ll post any big plays or injury updates during the game while also tweeting and I usually have a running game story going that I’ll post as soon as the last out is made. We’ll head down to talk to Farrell after the game, then to the clubhouse again to get reaction, etc. then back up to the press box to write one or two more stories off the game. I usually leave the park around midnight or so. And that’s a typical day.
CW: Has social media been a positive tool for you when it comes to sharing your articles and gaining new readers?
JM: Social media definitely has its pluses and minuses. You get to share your stories and connect with readers much easier than in the past, which is cool. Ultimately your job as a reporter is to convey what’s happening with the team to their fans so in that sense, Twitter is great. But Twitter definitely has a harsh side when you come across people who don’t think you know how to do your job or are very rude and type things they wouldn’t normally say to your face. You have to have thick skin and realize not every person or comment is worth fighting over.
JM: In relation to the previous question, I think at times it is a little different for women. I’ve never directly had any bad experiences, but in general you do feel like you have to prove yourself a little more to your readership to be like, “hey, just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I’m less informed than my male colleagues.” It is unfortunate, but hopefully some day there will be more of an equal playing ground. I think journalists like Jackie MacMullan and Karen Guregian have already done a tremendous amount of work in pushing women to the forefront of sports media in this town and I’m very grateful to them. I think we’re slowly making progress in that area.
CW: What’s your ultimate goal career-wise? Are you happy with covering the Red Sox, or do you have dreams to hopefully work for MLB, Fox Sports, etc?
JM: I’m not sure what my next move will be, but I’m happy to be covering a major-market team with such a passionate fan base. People are always in demand for more information or more insight so I appreciate that. I’ve only been on the beat full-time for two years so I think I’d like to do this for a while and see where it takes me, but I’m always open to new opportunities.