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Covering the Orioles: Q & A with Dean Jones, Jr. of The Sun

Djj_mediumThis is the fourth 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

TUESDAY: Brittany Ghiroli, Orioles beat reporter,

THURSDAY: Steve Melewski, Orioles blogger,

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

Dean Jones, Jr., in addition to his duties as a web-based editor at The Sun, writes the "O's on Deck" blog focusing on the Orioles' minor league affiliates. I asked him about balancing all his duties at The Sun and coordinating with a team of reporters, among other topics. Let's begin....

1)  You are tasked with covering six different Orioles minor league affiliates with the "O's On Deck" blog at The Sun. How much contact do you have with someone from each team over the course of a week, and do you get the chance to see many of the games of any of the affiliates?

The good thing about covering the Orioles minor league affiliates is that, nowadays, they’re all – with the exception of the GCL (Gulf Coast League) Orioles – located within a one-day drive from Baltimore. Also, thanks to telephone and e-mail, it’s extremely easy to keep in contact with people from each team in the organization.

Usually, I’ll talk with the media contacts for each team at least once per week to learn about any upcoming events, recent news, etc., from their market. It’s obviously easier to watch games for the teams that are within an hour drive – Bowie, Frederick and Aberdeen – because I can head there after working during the day at The Sun building on Calvert Street. My general rule is to attend at least one game per homestand for each of those three teams, but I get to some more than others. My goal is to attend at least a handful of games at each of the other affiliates in 2010.

2)  How much of your workload at The Sun is minor league coverage and how much is other editorial duties?

My main responsibility at The Baltimore Sun is to maintain the Sports portion of our Web site, as well as pushing our Sports content in social networking circles (FacebookTwitter, etc.). Since national and local attention has focused on the prospects in the Orioles minor league system within the past two years, one of my bosses approached me about writing a minor league baseball blog in the summer of 2008. O’s on Deck is primarily written in my spare time around my other duties with The Sun.

Once the season starts, I’ll get a little bit of time to do the blog at work, but it’s mainly after hours. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say about 85% of my time spent at work is devoted to the "regular" duties and 15% of it is spent on O’s on Deck. With that said, I’m normally doing a lot of work during the regular season after my traditional 40 hours per week to maintain the blog.

3)  You're one almost half a dozen writers and columnists at The Sun who cover or comment on the Orioles. How are decisions made on who covers what and how do the writers make sure no one else is pursuing the same story at the same time?

Jeff Zrebiec, Dan Connolly and Peter Schmuck are excellent at relaying the stories that they are going to cover, so it’s pretty simple to organize who is covering which story. Generally, I tend to focus on the everyday minor league news – game previews, game recaps, etc. – unless I’m able to break the news on a story through my minor league contacts. When that happens, I’ll let them know, as well as the Orioles editor, and they’ll either help with the story or let me handle it.

Communication with everyone is key to being successful and making sure that everyone is efficiently using their time to make sure all angles of the Orioles minor league system are covered by The Sun.

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

When hearing about a potential move within the Orioles minor league system, I generally like to touch base with as many people as possible to get to the bottom of the story. The more sources that you have, the quicker you’ll be able to break the story with detailed coverage. If the move concerns a specific team within the organization – like a player being promoted from one level to the next – I’ll try to get in touch with sources affiliated with those teams.

It makes sense to get in touch with Orioles executives, etc., if the move is deemed to be a "big-picture" transaction that involves more than just your usual minor league movement  between clubs. It’s important to get the move confirmed before reporting the story, so that you ensure that you’re being accurate.

5)   What are the biggest differences so far in covering the Orioles as a blogger rather than a traditional reporter? And how do you decide what's Twitter-worthy versus what's posting worthy?

One of the biggest differences, in my opinion, in covering the Orioles primarily as a blogger is that I’m always thinking of ways to develop our content online. As a print reporter, I would be confined to space restrictions. However, there is an endless amount of space available on the Internet to publish content. Also, the deadlines are more concrete in print, so I might not be able to put a full story in print if a game runs past deadline. But the full story can be posted online as soon as the game is complete. Live game blogs are a big part of O’s on Deck – and that feature is obviously not available in the print edition. It helps to keep fans focused on what is happening in the minors even if they’re unable to attend the games.

My general rule for posting content to the blog instead of simply on Twitter is that if it’s developed more than 140 characters – the Twitter limit – then I think it deserves to be mentioned on O’s on Deck. If it’s something short that fans would like to know, but I don’t really have enough to make an entire post, it’s good to just post it on Twitter and refer to that.