Jenny Dell introduced herself to Red Sox Nation on Feb. 19 with a relatively harmless description of her background and the path that led her to what she called her "dream job" at NESN.
This "Hi, I'm Jenny Dell" piece raised the first warning flags in my mind.
I suspected we might be in trouble when she wrote, "I grew up a 'daddy's girl' in Southbury, Conn."
Even worse, NESN did her no favors by running with that line to title the story, "Jenny Dell Explains Her Road From 'Daddy's Girl' in Connecticut to NESN's New Red Sox Sideline Reporter."
Daddy's Girl? Really? How is that supposed to help her earn the respect of the Red Sox Nation?
Somehow, I just can't see previous NESN Sports Babes Tina Cervasio, Kathryn Tappen, Jade McDonald or Heidi Watney writing anything so wide-eyed and…immature, I guess.
(Hazel Mae, maybe…but that's another story.)
I'm sure Jenny was trying to connect with her audience on a personal level, but in my opinion, she went too far, ending up sounding like a college girl pledging a sorority rather than a professional woman trying to make her mark in a man's sport.
For example, she gushes:
I started cheerleading competitively. When I wasn't at practice, or on the sideline watching our teams' football or basketball games, you could find me in the kitchen. After starting my own catering company, Simply Dell-icious, I received a scholarship to attend culinary school. Instead, I made the decision to attend UMass-Amherst and major in hospitality and tourism management.
Contrast that with what Heidi was doing at the same age. According to her NESN bio,
Watney grew up surrounded by sports—her father is Fresno State’s golf coach and one of her cousins is a PGA tour golfer, for example. Watney participated in track, diving, gymnastics, and cheerleading, but her love of sports really crystallized at the University of San Diego, where she attended on an academic scholarship and graduated with honors. She impressed her guy friends with her football knowledge, and they encouraged her to pursue sports reporting.
"I grew up watching baseball with my dad in Connecticut," Dell continued. She even acknowledged that it wasn't the listening to baseball part that she enjoyed—it was her father's company. (Don't get me wrong here—I'm not putting down a daughter's love for her father, which is a great thing. I'm just trying to put her baseball chops into perspective.)
When asked in a staged NESN Q&A about her greatest Red Sox memory, she replied, "It's got to be the whole 2004 series—Yankees and Red Sox. That was when I started enjoying baseball."
The italics are mine.
Watney began her career as a sports reporter/assistant producer for KUSI News in San Diego, a job that came about as a result of a college internship. She graduated to weekend sports anchor and reporter for KMPH Fox-26 News and a sports talk radio show host for 1430 ESPN Radio KFIG.
Jenny's first job out of college was with ESPN, and she spent four years working in the event production department creating video packages and features. She was able to work her way into on-air reporting, but it was all peripheral project work, such as (in her own words) "Countdown Daily, filming weekly AccuScore- and IBM-sponsored segments for the NFL season, Fantasy Focus Baseball and Streak for the Cash."
Her last assignment for NESN was the Winter X Games in Aspen.
Yes, she's been at ESPN, but just because a lieutenant has worked at the Pentagon doesn't make him a defense expert.
Perhaps NESN saw the same glaring differential between the two women's experience and decided to narrow the gap by clever wordsmanship rather than just saying, "We've hired Jenny, and are confident she will do a great job."
As with players, it's not last year's stats that count. It's what you do in the future.
Instead, they published a report entitled, "Jenny Dell Brings Impressive Resume, Valuable Experiences to NESN Red Sox Reporter Job", and then proceeded to demonstrate that she really did not have that impressive a resume or that much experience—at least, not on-air or reporting experience.
I'm also disappointed that NESN seems to feel the need to pump up her official bio, primarily by blurring the distinction between Jenny's production work and her on-air work.
Here's what that bio says:
Prior to joining NESN, Jenny served in several different roles at ESPN, including on-air reporter. The University of Massachusetts graduate and Connecticut native reported from two Super Bowls and delivered AccuScore reports for ESPN.com. She also worked in production and covered Major League Baseball (MLB), Monday Night Football, National Basketball Association (NBA) and NASCAR.
However, Jenny has written elsewhere that most of her her MLB, NFL, NBA, WNBA, X GAMES, college basketball, IndyCar and NASCAR work was on the production side, but the average reader will not conclude that from the NESN bio.
Also consider this NESN statement: "The University of Massachusetts graduate…has reported from the last two Super Bowls…"
The operative words in that sentence are "reported from." Jenny herself has acknowledged that she wasn't really covering the games—just the parts around the edges, the glitz and glamour and the celebrities.
Yes, she did interview NFL players, but primarily to get their Super Bowl predictions for a background puff piece.
She also acknowledges that she spent as much if not more of her time interviewing people like Will.I.Am of the Black Eyed Peas and rappers Nelly and Jermaine Dupri.
I don't think the network is doing Jenny any favors by overstating her experience because now, she will just have to work that much harder to fill Heidi Watney's shoes.