March 4, 2009

Five Questions With Jen Langosch

Our next installment of the "Five Questions" series is MLB.com and Pirates.com reporter Jen Langosch.  Jen has recently entered the dark and murky waters of Pittsburgh Pirates blogging with her blog entitled "By Gosh, It's Langosch".

The upcoming 2009 season will be Jen's third following the Pirates after taking over the role vacated by Ed Eagle.  Jen grew up in Marietta, Georgia and attended the University of Missouri.  She graduated with degrees in news-editorial journalism and French.  In 2007 Jen finished first in the sports writing competition of the Hearst Journalism Awards competitions for her piece called "Playing On".   In 2006 she interned at MLB.com in Atlanta covering the Braves.

BTW Question 1: What was the driving force that inspired you to pursue a role in sports journalism?

JL:  Growing up just outside of Atlanta during the 1990s, it was hard not to become engrossed in baseball at an early age. My parents were baseball fans, so it was natural that they’d introduce me to the sport. And it didn’t hurt that the Braves were just beginning their historic string of division titles when I was getting into it. I was one of those kids who was keeping my own scorebooks of Braves games on a nightly basis early in my elementary school years. I loved the statistics, and I got into reading the sports page at a very young age.

When I was in second grade, I started telling people that I was going to be the first female broadcaster for the Braves. As I grew up, though, I had a passion for writing, and so I started to consider going that direction. My passion for baseball remained strong and so it only made sense that I incorporate that passion with my love for writing. I saw it as a no-brainer. When I went off to Mizzou to get a journalism degree, I got my first real taste of sports writing and I loved it. My dream was always to cover baseball, but I started out covering about every other sport imaginable and enjoyed each experience. Those early years in college solidified my decision to pursue a career as a sports journalist.

BTW Question 2:  What was your toughest obstacle in becoming a journalist and how did you overcome it?

JL:  It might seem like the obvious answer, but I think I am constantly overcoming the obstacle of being a female in a male-dominated profession. I really don’t think you can ever truly overcome it. I owe a lot to the women in the generation before me who paved a way for women to enter this profession. Being where I am now, it’s hard to believe that even 20 years ago, the access was not the same for us.

There were times growing up when, after I told people what I wanted to be as an adult, I was told that I couldn’t be a sports writer or broadcaster because I was a girl. I wish I could say it happened only once or twice, but it was more frequent than that. Fortunately, I simply used that as more motivation.

Still, I think females in sports journalism are still burdened with a higher standard than their male counterparts. I’ve had to overcome this at every place I’ve worked and at every level in sports. I often feel scrutinized more than male sportswriters because often the assumption is that I got my job because I am female, not because I am the most qualified. People expect you to trip up. People expect you not to know how to handle yourself in a clubhouse or male-dominated setting. People question your motives for entering the profession. And men often assume that you can’t possibly know as much as they do.

I’ve always really felt that I’ve had to prove myself – my abilities and my knowledge – more than my male colleagues, whether that be fair or not. That means proving myself to the athletes that I deal with, to the readers that I serve and to those who I work with. I have to break every stereotype that is out there of the female sports journalists, and trust me, there are many.

Is it fair? No. And honestly, I’m not sure if the mindset in the profession will ever change.  However, I’ve also tried to look at this obstacle as a benefit. I believe that in the end, once I do prove that I am competent enough to do my job well, I feel like I earn more respect because I’m a female.

 

BTW Question 3: Who is your dream interview past or present and why?

JL:  I’m not going to pick a professional athlete for this answer. My answer has to be Mary Garber. Garber was one of the most significant pioneers for women entering sports journalism. For those who don’t know the details of Garber’s life, you’d find them fascinating.

She was able to get her break into sports journalism during World War II, when many of the male reporters went off to serve in the war. The barriers she faced were numerous. She was not allowed in locker rooms and she wasn’t even allowed to sit in the press box during sporting events. She had to sit with the players’ wives in the stands to cover a game. She also couldn’t gain membership into sports writing organization.

However, Garber ended up spending 56 years as a sports writer and became an advocate for women entering the profession.

More than anything, I would just be honored to talk with Garber about her experiences and to get more insight into how she fought through the barriers. I would love to listen to her stories. I think it would be an eye-opening and humbling experience to get interview someone who was a “first” in the profession I’m now in.

BTW Note:  Mary Garber was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association in May of 2008.  In June 2005, Garber was the first woman to receive the Associated Press Sports Editors’ Red Smith Award, presented since 1981 for major contributions to sports journalism. The Association for Women in Sports Media presents an annual Mary Garber Pioneer Award honoring women in sports media.  In September of 2008, Mary Garber passed away in North Carolina.

Here are some additional links on Mary Garber:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Garber

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/22/local/me-garber22

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/03/sports/03vecsey.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/23/sports/23garber.html

If you find any additional links, please add them in the comments sections.

BTW Question 4:  Having joined MLB.com at the end of the Dave Littlefield era, in your opinion, what are the major differences between the previous regimes approach and the current managements approach?

JL:  I did join MLB.com at the end of the Littlefield era, and I actually had been on the job less than four months when Littlefield was fired. It’s hard for me to have the best insight into the differences between then and now simply because of the limited interaction I had with that regime.

What I can tell you, though, is I see a definitive plan with this new regime. I also feel like this new management team is going to stick with that plan regardless of the initial public perception. That’s important. This organization needs direction, and I get the feeling that it lacked concrete direction under previous regimes. Whether or not the Pirates are successful on the field in 2009, I think most people can agree that they at least the organization moving in a particular direction. There is continuity here between all levels of the organization that wasn’t present before.

Under Littlefield, it seemed like the direction was unclear. There were movements toward youth, yet there were also questionable signings of veterans that really made no sense long-term. In other words, the decision-making right now seems to be more sound.

There has also been a shift in how resources (mostly financial ones) are used. The new management team has put a renewed emphasis on global scouting and in renewing the Pirates’ presence in Latin America. The previous management team fell short in both of those areas.

And no one can argue that this regime’s decision to select Pedro Alvarez in the Draft last year reflected a change in philosophy.

Again, things seem to be more systematic now, and even the players say that they can see tangible evidence of change. 

BTW Question 5: Nate McLouth and Ryan Doumit both had breakout years in 2008.  Who do you see as the prime candidates to have similar breakouts in 2009 and why?

JL:  From an offensive end, I’d keep your eye on two guys. Brandon Moss isn’t going to be Jason Bay, but I think he has the potential to be a solid everyday outfielder. I like to stick away from predictions (especially in early March), but Moss seems to have the makeup of a potential 25 home run, 90 RBI kind of guy. Lofty expectations, I know. But if he can stay healthy, I think he’ll be a productive addition.

Also, I think righty Ross Ohlendorf has the potential to be an integral part of the rotation. What we saw of him last year in Pittsburgh came after Ohlendorf had just made the conversion back from being a reliever to being a starter and fatigue showed. Ohlendorf certainly has the velocity potential to make him effective, and now that he’s been reunited with pitching coach Joe Kerrigan, I think you could see some pretty impressive results.

BTW Bonus Question: How many wins for the Pirates in 2009?

JL: 74

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