Covering the Orioles: Q & A with Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com

Mlblog_mediumThis is the second of a four-part series spotlighting members of the media covering the Orioles. For each reporter/blogger, I e-mailed a series of five questions with a promise to print their answers verbatim. I hope I asked at least some of the questions you would have.

MONDAY: Jeff Zrebiec, Orioles beat reporter, The (Baltimore) Sun

TODAY: Brittany Ghiroli, Orioles beat reporter, MLB.com

WEDNESDAY: Steve Melewski, Orioles blogger, MASNsports.com

THURSDAY: Dean Jones, Jr., Orioles minor league affiliates blogger, The (Baltimore) Sun

Brittany Ghiroli is starting her first year as the beat reporter for the Baltimore Orioles at MLB.com and orioles.com. I asked her about her use of Twitter, the relationship between MLB.com and MLB, and noticeable differences in covering the O's from other teams. Let's begin...

1)   What's a typical day at Spring Training like for a reporter? How much access do you have to players and staff during the day? How much of your access is "organized" (pressers) vs. "beat reporting" (finding players on your own around the complex and around town)?

I'm up at 6 a.m. and out the door a little after 7 a.m. By the time I arrive at Ed Smith (Stadium), I sit down and try to come up with a short list at the top of my notepad. It could be guys to touch base with on various injuries, some feature ideas, etc. I try to minimize the time I'm standing around in the clubhouse with nothing to do, which inevitably happens at some point during the day.

From 8-9 the clubhouse is open and you can basically get the players and coaches as you please, as long as they aren't on their way to go work out or eat or something. If it's a home afternoon game, you meet with (manager Dave) Trembley when the team takes batting practice around 11ish. After BP, the clubhouse is open again until an hour before first pitch. Again, it's get whomever is in there, and then you speak with the manager again right after the game ends. Some days you get a lot done and everyone you need to talk to is in the locker room. Other days, not so much. A good portion of your day is standing around waiting.

2)   You use Twitter more than any other member of the media covering the Orioles. What advantages do you see in using it as a reporter? Is there a difference in standards between what you'll Tweet vs. what you'll blog about or write in an online article?

I wasn't a Twitter fan at first, but it's really grown on me. As the newest reporter on the Orioles beat, it's really helped get my name out there and get the word out about my articles and blog. It's also been extremely beneficial because it connects me to Orioles fans on a level that you can't get from commenting on articles and blog posts. I've had the pleasure of meeting a few of my followers during these first few Spring Training games, and hopefully it will only grow from there. Whether it's comments on my Tweets or questions about the team, I feel like I have a better handle on what people really want to know about their Orioles. And that, in turns, helps me give better coverage.

As for what I'll Tweet vs. put up the site, it's pretty much at my own discretion. In the morning, I will post the Orioles lineup on Twitter when I walk in to the clubhouse. It saves me the hassle of running back to my computer and blogging it (which I do later in the morning) and helps get the info out there ASAP. If news breaks, I might Tweet it while I'm waiting to talk to the people involved (ie if it's an injury news and we're stuck in the clubhouse waiting for the player). But if I'm at my computer, blogging and writing come first. Usually if there's something I want people to read immediately, I'll write the story, throw up a condensed version on my blog and link it in my Twitter. When the story goes up live on Orioles.com I replace the Twitter link with my story. I use Twitter as another outlet to get out news, so I use the same standards I would if I was writing a full-fledged story. I won't Tweet secondhand information or things that I wouldn't feel comfortable putting up on my blog.

3)   You're employed by MLB.com, yet every story ends with a disclaimer saying MLB and its parent clubs had no control over the content. What differences are there in covering a team when your boss is ultimately the Commissioner's office rather than a newspaper?

Honestly, none. I've never been a beat reporter for a newspaper, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask. But that disclaimer is because MLB.com is a separate entity. If a guy is in legal trouble or there's a story about steroid use somewhere, we report it. We don't like to spotlight that stuff, but we don't shy away from it either. I don't have Bud Selig on speed dial and I don't get any secret information that the newspaper guys don't get.

4)   You hear something about a possible trade or move with a player. What's the process in chasing down a lead for a beat reporter? How many phone calls, who gets called, and when are you satisfied you have enough to report?

I think a lot of that depends on what the trade or move is and what contacts you have in that situation. For example, if the trade involves a player I know on the other side, I might call him or his agent before I called someone from the Orioles. A lot of it also depends on where I get the tip. Generally you'd like to backtrack from there as best as you can, since your initial source is usually your best one. As far as when to report it, a lot of this business is based on trust. No one likes to read stories that say "sources say", but sometimes it's necessary. The time of the year also dictates my comfort level in reporting a story without naming sources. If it's trade deadline time or Winter Meetings or something, it's a necessary evil. If it's during the regular season, generally things are little less hush-hush. Again, it all depends. But you do your best to check every possible avenue, exhaust every resource and give the most comprehensive story you can at that time.

5)   What are the biggest differences so far in covering the Orioles from the other teams you've covered?

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in Tampa and again in New York last year, said this to me the other day about starting on a new team. "You feel like you're back to square one. You know how to do the job, but now you have to know the people."

The truth is, I'm just getting started with the Orioles. My first day was Feb. 15. And while there are definite differences from other markets I've been in, when you get down to it baseball teams are all the same. There's some great personalities, some OK personalities and some personalities that are hard to mesh with. Although, I will say this about my limited experience with the O's. I've had zero problems with the players, the access, or with any personnel. The other reporters have been extremely welcoming and I've been given all the tools necessary to do my job. Now, it's time to learn the details.

You can read more from Brittany Ghiroli on Britt's Bird Watch and find her real-time O's updates on Twitter.

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