Jen Royle is new in town. Relatively speaking.
The veteran sports reporter arrived in Baltimore a year ago to work for both the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) and 105.7 The Fan, reporting in various capacities first on the Orioles and, later, the Ravens. But that's not the thing.
Folks arrive and depart all the time. What's unique about Jen Royle is that, prior to coming here, she spent seven years working in New York covering the Yankees for the YES Network. That, and she's a Boston native.
On the one hand, here's an experienced reporter arriving in town to lend her talents to the local sports media. On the other, here's a Bostonian arriving by way of the Yankees to cover...the Orioles?
Anyone enjoying even a passing familiarity with the Baltimore sports media landscape will understand that this is not the recipe for an easy transition.
"The fact that I covered the Yankees for seven years, and then the fact that I came from Boston..." Royle says, before trailing off for a moment to consider her first year in town. "I can't believe the hate. Emails, texts, and tweets that came directly to me. I had this automatic perception that this was the meanest city in the world."
"Provincial" is a word used now and then to describe Baltimore. In the dictionary sense it means "local or restricted outlook." What it means in practice is dependent entirely on context -- how one chooses to define and employ both "local" and "restricted." Either can be good. Either can be...less than that.
Royle experienced her fair share of exposure to the latter. Take, for example, the following comments, excerpted from one of her blog posts:
The reason you will never be accepted in this town is because you come from Boston and worked in NYC,our 2 most hated rivals who have beat the crap out of this town for over a decade.
So, you say MASN brought you here? Wow. What a mistake. I think it's more like you got canned in New York and wound up here because you're halfway decent looking. Either way, you'll be on the next train out, right behind the almost equally awful Anita Marks (she's a step above you). And, no, it's not a woman-hating thing. It's the fact that you flat out suck.
Then there are the comments which, alas, can't be printed here.
Longtime Baltimore sportscaster Scott Garceau, one of Royle's coworkers at 105.7, points out that while he and Royle "get along great," he can see how she's had a bit of a hard time.
"In general Baltimore fans are suspect of outsiders," he says, "and in Jen's case I feel it's even tougher for a woman."
Jeremy Conn, another of Royle's coworkers, echoes the sentiment. "It's difficult being a woman in this business," he says. "I think a lot of men don't initially show respect to women when they get into the business...fans are ready to pounce on you when you make a mistake or misspeak. If you are a woman they come out like it's a feeding frenzy."
For her part, though, Royle downplays the notion that her being a woman is the reason for the chilly reception. But if it's not that, what is it?
Settling In and Sticking Around
When you see Jen Royle she might greet you with a hug. This even if the two of you have never met. "I'm a hug person," she'll say, and that will be that. She is welcoming and accommodating, easy to talk to and honest about her experiences.
She is also -- in her own words -- "Italian, feisty, and combative." She has no qualms about saying that she loved her time in New York and doesn't hesitate to push back when folks claim that her background makes her less than qualified to cover Baltimore teams. A quick glance at her Twitter page proves she doesn't shy away from back-and-forth.
As Conn puts it, "The thing I really like about her is that she doesn't take any crap off anyone."
To that extent, one could argue that Royle hasn't made her own road any easier. Not that she'd do anything differently.
"If you poke the bear," she says, "you're in trouble."
However it came to be, her fans and detractors alike can agree on this much: it's easy to have an opinion on Jen Royle. She's the kind of person who generates interest. And for someone in the media, that's not such a bad thing.
Today, despite run-ins with what she describes as "a handful of jackasses," Royle is settling in. She recently signed a new, one-year deal to continue reporting on both the Ravens and the Orioles full-time for 105.7. She says she's grown to love Baltimore and is eager to stick around and be judged on her merits as her past as a Yankees reporter fades a little further into the background.
If the comments on her farewell blog post at MASN are any indication -- comments Royle says had her "nearly in tears at the kindness" -- plenty of fans are glad she decided to re-up. And Royle's glad she stayed.
"A year into it," she says, "I'm tougher."
Spoken like a true Boston-to-New York-to-Baltimore transplant.