Happy Opening Day! As Major League Baseball opens the season this week, we invited award-winning journalist, Susan Slusser to be interviewed for “Meet the Media.” Susan covers the San Francisco Giants for the San Francisco Chronicle. She covered the Oakland Athletics for more than two decades, before she became the Giants beat writer in 2021.
In 2021, Susan was the first woman elected to serve as president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America in the organization’s century-plus history.
The Monterey native has published two books, 100 Things A’s Fans Need to Know and Do Before They Die and If These Walls Could Talk, Tales from the Oakland A’s Dugout, Locker Room and Press Box, co-authored with Ken Korach.
What types of stories, trends or issues are on your radar now?
Covering baseball, it’s all about the new rules right now, especially adding the pitch clock to a sport that is famous for having no clock. The end result, the league hopes, is increased fan interest, which plays into one of the bigger news trends, period: the economy and how people are spending their money in a time of inflation. With the Giants, a corresponding story is how the loss of so many downtown workers post-pandemic is affecting their attendance – and it is, significantly.
Describe one of the wackiest proposals/ideas you’ve been sent.
I tend to only get pitches for sports products and baseball books, but let’s just say that any device invented in the past several years that might improve athletic performance, I’ve gotten an email or 12 about it. I also regularly get proposals from doctors to write about sports injuries, using them as experts on whatever the specific injury might be. I’ve yet to follow up on any of those. The only proposals I really listen to come from my editors.
What elements or characteristics do you look for in a story?
The human interest is the most compelling element, which I’m sure is the answer most sportswriters would give. The numbers are only a small part of the narrative – what people want to know is obstacles overcome, things that might be motivating someone, interesting personal background or funny anecdotes. It’s a small subset that want just numbers breakdowns. Covering a sports team daily, performance trends are important, but it’s better to put a face on that rather than running a spreadsheet.
What story or stories are you most proud of?
In 2013, I wrote a big story about Yoenis Cespedes’ flight from Cuba, which was harrowing, and his family’s the next year – which was even more dramatic because they were stranded on a rock in the Caribbean for a few days. Covering Dallas Braden’s perfect game in 2010 also remains a highlight, especially because every time I write about it, I learn more amazing facts, like: He was very hungover and nearly missed the game, and the home plate umpire didn’t realize it was a perfect game at the end.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
I’d love to cover a Winter Olympics sometime, but I’m guessing that’s unlikely. Covering a few World Series, an NBA Finals and an NHL Final – that was good enough for me.
Finish this sentence: If I am not reporting I am…
Listening to music, attending concerts, socializing with friends.
What advice do you have for PR people who want to pitch you?
Go through my editors! If you sell them on something, that will ensure success.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve covered baseball for 30-plus years, but when I was still in college, I also did sports radio broadcasting, play by play and color, and helped out a bit in the San Francisco Giants’ PR department.
The PR wing of every sport/team I’ve ever covered has been instrumental in getting the job done efficiently and accurately – just an absolute book to any reporter.