Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Journalist tweets his way to renown covering Rangers

Ruth Wedergren '85 has written us a great profile of an Aggie journalist -- currently covering the World Series -- and how he broke national news on Twitter and adjusted to covering the team for TV and the Web.

Wedergren is a public media professional with 25 years of experience in programming, operations and educational outreach in public television and radio. And she's a hell of a writer. (Contact her at tvtexas85@aim.com)

Part One of her profile:

Texas A&M journalism graduate Anthony Andro ’92 made a name for himself during the Texas Rangers ownership auction in August 2010. He wrote about it for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and discovered a rapt audience on Twitter. And a future employer, Fox Sports Southwest.com, was also following him.

(At right: Andro with Ron Washington)

“I went into the courtroom that morning with my cell phone and my laptop and started tweeting everything that was happening in the auction,” Andro says. “I picked up 4,000 followers that day because I was giving everybody stuff that no one had access to. I was the number one trending Twitter topic in the nation that day.”

Andro was in the hallway talking with Nolan Ryan, a member of the Chuck Greenberg group hoping to own the Rangers, when the news walked right past him, literally. “The Jim Crane group came by; he just walked by Nolan, and Jim Crane said ‘Congratulations. We’re done.’ Nolan looked at me, I looked at Nolan, and I thought, ‘What the heck?’ So I tweeted that Jim Crane says we’re done.”

People in the courtroom got the news from Andro’s Twitter post, and Chuck Greenberg’s financial advisor said, “Anthony says we won it.”

Andro started covering sports for his Plano East High School paper, Panther Prints.
He also wrote for the Plano Star-Courier while in high school. “I thought, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ so I decided to go to A&M and be a journalism major,” he says.

While at Texas A&M, he was on the Battalion’s sports staff and covered everything from football to cross-country meets to baseball and basketball. “We covered it all.”

Andro says his favorite professor in the Journalism Department was Dr. Douglas Starr.
“He’s such a laid-back guy, such a good guy,” Andro says. “He cared about us more than anyone else.” That caring aspect took on special significance when Andro’s father and stepfather both died while he was in school. “I was gone from school a week each time. I came back and Dr. Starr said, ‘Anthony, what are you doing here? Just go home, don’t worry about it. Just take care of things, and you come back when you’re ready.’ You don’t find that at a lot of places or with a lot of people.”

After graduation, Andro got a job at the Port Arthur News covering sports. He also worked the desk and “did it all.” That’s where he met his wife, who’s a Longhorn. Yes, they have a house divided.

In 1999, Andro moved to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram to cover high school sports.
A few years later, they added motor sports and college sports to his beat, and he was doing less high school coverage. In 2007 he began to exclusively report on the Texas Rangers. After the paper downsized in 2008, he covered the Rangers and motor racing.

When the Rangers won the American League pennant last year, Andro shot about 50 seconds of video of the ginger ale celebration given to Josh Hamilton by his teammates. (Hamilton has battled drug and alcohol addiction.) That video was picked up by Yahoo! and MSNBC, and the Star-Telegram had lots of video views on its website.

The Rangers auction experience showed him how much you could do with social media. “I think you have to realize what people want to see in this job, because you have access that no one else does,” he says. “If you can provide it for them in different formats, you have to be able to do that.”

Andro’s Rangers ownership coverage got him noticed, and this July, he started working at FoxSportsSouthwest.com covering the Rangers. “Fox has a huge agreement with the Rangers, and they wanted to beef up their Rangers coverage to go along with everything they do on the TV side,” he said.

But working for Fox doesn’t just mean writing content for the web. “I’ve never done TV, and they said, ‘All right, you’re going on TV,’” he says. After regular season home games, he does a segment about what Ranger fans are talking about on Twitter, answers a few questions and then goes down to the clubhouse to write his story.

(At right: Andro talks with Nelson Cruz)

During the playoffs, Andro was on the online pre-game show and the post-game show on Fox Sports Southwest, all live. “For games three, four and five, I was in the studio while the Rangers were in Detroit, and we did hour-long post-game shows,” he says. “That’s a completely new world for me. I know how to conjugate verbs correctly, but I don’t know anything about this. So it’s definitely been an adjustment.”

For the World Series, Andro is doing the online pre-game show and the one-hour post-game show on Fox Sports Southwest. He talks about what was going on during the game, “the highlights and lowlights.”
Andro made his TV debut during the Big 12 Media Days this year. He says, “I went from Big 12 Media Days to the ballpark to do my regular stuff; then after that they stick a mike in your hand and say, ‘Look at the camera and smile,’ and you’re on. That was my television training.”

Since he’s been on TV, Andro has learned some tricks of the trade. “Now I own rice paper to take the shine off my forehead, and I have a little bit of powder,” he says. “It rips at your heart, the things you say you’ll never do, and then here you are doing them. You kind of walk a little sheepishly now.”

He even tweeted about the rice paper and powder after the Rangers’ general manager, Jon Daniels, walked into the bathroom and saw Andro blotting his forehead. “I reached an all-time new low,” he says.

After baseball is over, Andro will cover some college football games and then the NASCAR race at Texas World Speedway in November. “I still have a lot of ties with the racing people, so every time they’re in town, I still go out and do that kind of stuff.”