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Orioles in the media: The Washington Post

Note: This is part two of a series on the coverage of the Orioles in the media. I must admit to some potential for bias here. I am more familiar with the Post, which has been my main newspaper for years, than I am with other news sources. So it is not surprising that I have many things to say about it. However, I will try to be as objective as possible in my analysis. —tbw

Publication name: The Washington Post

Beat writer: Dave Sheinin (with occasional substitutes)

Columnists: occasionally Thomas Boswell, and more rarely George Solomon and William Gildea

Average in-season coverage:

  • Daily:
    • one story about 24 column-inches (~900 words) long containing a game recap (if a game was played) and team notes
    • brief recaps of area minor-league affiliates, including Bowie and Frederick
  • Other:
    • Orioles-related opinion columns and features appear infrequently

Print edition rates: $0.35 Mon-Sat, $1.50 Sun

Print circulation area: The District of Columbia, plus the following:
In Maryland—counties of Charles, Montgomery and Prince George's.
In Virginia—counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William, plus the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.
Also available on newsstands in many major cities nationally.

Web page: http://www.washingtonpost.com/

Link to Orioles coverage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/sports/baltimoreorioles

Link to local minor-league baseball: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/areaproteams/minorleaguebaseball/

RSS feed of Orioles coverage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/leaguesandsports/mlb/baltimoreorioles/rssheadlines.xml

RSS feed of Boswell columns: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/columns/boswellthomas/rssheadlines.xml

RSS feed of local minor-league baseball: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/areaproteams/minorleaguebaseball/rssheadlines.xml

Web site notes: Free registration required to view current articles, which are archived for two weeks. Game recaps are posted within hours after the game ends, although stories may not be finalized until after that. Rudimentary stats and transaction information are provided by SportsTicker. A sparsely populated and difficult-to-navigate forum is also available.

Archives: As the Post is one of the nation's most prominent newspapers, its archive is accessible from nearly everywhere. The paper's web site offers a free search portal to its archives, although you will have to pay to view the articles. Those archives are managed by ProQuest (modern full-text archive since 1987; historical archive from 1877-1987). Less-comprehensive archives are also maintained by other services, many of which are subscribed to by businesses, universities, and public library systems. They include Lexis-Nexis Academic (articles since 1977), Newsbank (1977-), and Factiva (1984-). Microfilm versions are also widely available.

Corporate ownership: In addition to the Post, The Washington Post Company owns Newsweek magazine, El Tiempo Latino, the educational brand Kaplan, and a host of smaller media properties, including regional papers and television stations.


Since the Senators left town in 1971, the Washington Post has treated the Orioles like a pseudo-home team, assigning a beat writer to Baltimore's games but stopping short of giving the Birds consistent top billing in its sports pages. For casual followers of the team the Post provides adequate information, and for the avid O's fan it offers a complementary perspective to the more substantial treatment by the Baltimore Sun.

In subtle ways, the Post has scaled back its coverage of the Birds in the last few years, particularly in the areas of columns and features. During the summer, when basketball, football, and hockey have receded from the spotlight, the Orioles have frequently failed to merit a mention on the front page of the Post sports section.

The diminution in coverage can be justified in part by the Birds' lagging performance. But also lurking in editorial calculations is the possibility of a major-league baseball team migrating to the Washington area. Major developments about the Expos' future home have rightly taken precedence over the O's coverage in the Post. And the Orioles' public resistance to such a move has made them a touchy subject among the Post's readers.

The beat

Since 1999, Dave Sheinin has done an admirable job covering the Orioles for the Post, and he writes a Sunday roundup of national baseball news for the paper as well. Sheinin writes breezy game summaries, sprinkling in stats to highlight key points. Most of the information in his stories is essentially identical to what can be found in the Sun and other news sources, although Sheinin's reporting may take a slightly different slant. Data on injuries and roster transactions, however, are barely sufficient; the Sun and MLB.com usually offer more detailed off-the-field updates than the Post does.

But not always. Sheinin scored a coup in June 2001 when he broke the news of Cal Ripken's impending retirement. In doing so, Sheinin scooped the Sun and the rest of the Orioles organization. It went something like this: before an evening game, Sheinin and Ripken were casually talking one on one in the Orioles' clubhouse; Sheinin asked about Ripken's retirement plans, not expecting to get an answer, and to his surprise Ripken let the cat out of the bag and handed him an exclusive. Sheinin concealed the news from his peers during the game and published the story for the next day's edition. Other media outlets were forced to play catch-up.

The Ripken retirement story was not an isolated stroke of good fortune, as it was not the first or the last time Sheinin has used his relationships within the Oriole organization to publish information before his competitors. For example, his highly critical article about the Orioles' first half of this season revealed more than any other beat writer did about latent dissatisfaction in the Oriole clubhouse, although the most controversial allegations made in that article have not been corroborated by other sources since then. Whatever the reason, Sheinin's inside sources have provided enough distinctive fodder for his stories to make the Post's Orioles reportage stand on its own merits. But the Sun remains a better resource overall.

The Post also runs a compact daily section recapping the games of local minor-league teams, including the Orioles' Class A Frederick Keys and Class AA Bowie Baysox. Box scores and summaries are accompanied by a brief article that occasionally contains profiles of Oriole farmhands and other developments.


For over three decades, one of the hallmarks of the Post's sports page has been the excellent writing of Thomas Boswell. After arriving at the paper in 1969 just in time for the Senators' last hurrah, Boswell became the Post's Orioles beat writer in the 1970s and graduated to column-writing in the mid-1980s. He is most insightful when writing about baseball, but has increasingly veered into writing about other sports. This last development is unfortunate for Orioles fans, who have rarely seen his acumen applied to their team this year.

A winner of numerous awards for sportswriting, Boswell has elevated to the highest level of his profession. His prolific work on the Orioles beat in the '70s and '80s was exemplary, and his columns, books, and occasional features for the Washington Post Magazine and other publications vaulted him into the ranks of America's best-known and most-read sportswriters.

These days, Boswell's writing is not as consistently brilliant as his reputation signifies, but even his worst efforts are worth a read. On the whole, Boswell's columns are still interesting, but more predictable and formulaic than his early work. Perhaps this is to be expected from such an old hand. But Boswell's writing at its best is uncommonly vivid, witty, and erudite. He is a deft prose stylist and a thoughtful critic with a knack for deciphering the personalities and innuendo that fill big-league clubhouses. Into some columns he has inserted references to Shakespeare, W.B. Yeats, and other enlightening and unconventional sources.

If Boswell has a bugaboo, it is his somewhat inexpert use of statistics. Back in the 1980s Boswell was more in touch with the sabermetric movement; he wrote about splits and ballpark effects and promoted a moderately useful metric called Total Average. But it has been years since he alluded to that stat, and his current work is largely oblivious to recent developments in the use of statistics to analyze baseball performance.

Although Boswell was generally upbeat in his coverage of the Earl Weaver-era Orioles, he has been unrestrained in criticizing recent Birds administrations, especially owner Peter Angelos's meddling over the past decade. In March a year ago, Boswell went out on a limb when he recommended that Washington baseball fans boycott the Orioles' home games to protest the lack of a competitive on-field product. His case was undermined, though, when Orioles P.R. head Bill Stetka wrote a letter to the paper revealing that Boswell had retained his season ticket plan at Camden Yards. Last winter, as the Orioles signed several expensive free agents, Boswell reassessed his position and made a truce of sorts with Baltimore.

As a native of the nation's capital who grew up watching the Senators, Boswell would prefer to write about a baseball team in D.C. Lacking that, his love for the game has lured him to the Orioles, and his eloquent ruminations on baseball in Baltimore have been a boon to Washington-area Orioles fans over the years.

No other columnist in the Post's extensive stable writes about the Birds with any frequency. But some have taken on the Washington-Baltimore baseball saga, particularly George Solomon. Solomon was the sports editor at the Post for three decades before stepping aside recently to write a Sunday column in which he answers reader mail and tackles some of the top issues of the moment. Solomon is steadfastly in favor of baseball in Washington, but has been willing to listen to other voices in the debate.

The Post's William Gildea has also written a few baseball-related columns in the past year. But for the most part, the paper's opinion writing about the Orioles has slowed to a trickle as the prospect of Washington baseball has taken center stage.

Sabermetric take

See notes on Boswell. Like most other general-interest papers, the Post shows no interest in educating the public about the progressive, analytical advances of sabermetrics.


While not equaling the full-court press of the Sun, the Post does a credible job covering the Orioles, and occasionally it betters its Baltimore rival. And although Thomas Boswell rarely writes about the O's anymore, his columns on baseball are always worth a look.

Comments (2)


For a long time, the Post lagged the Wash. Times in its coverage of baseball coming to DC, relegating its coverage to sections other than Sports. That has changed, however.


I believe you're right about that, although I haven't exactly combed through all of the stories on the issue. Earlier in the year the Times seemed to be more aggressive in their pursuit of the story on the MLB front than the Post, which has focused more on the efforts of D.C. baseball backers. I got that impression because I first learned about some breaking developments in the MLB-Expos saga from the work of Eric Fisher, who has been following the story for the Times. But in late June the Post's Steve Fainaru ran a detailed, three-part series on the issue. And he hasn't been the only one tackling that beat for the Post; Thomas Heath has also been on the trail, and some Metro beat writers have also chipped in articles.

You're right that the Times's stories on D.C. baseball appear mostly in their Sports section, while most of the Post's appear in Metro, where they can be overlooked. Both arrangements are justifiable. The bulk of the maneuvers at this point in the game -- politicking, fundraising, assessing stadium construction plans, gauging impact on neighborhoods -- fall under the interest of the general public and look somewhat inappropriate next to stories in a typical sports section. So I understand the Post's rationale. But the people with the keenest interest in the issue are mostly baseball fans, and the Times has made it more convenient for them by keeping the stories in Sports. I would prefer to have all D.C. baseball stories confined to a single, predictable section of the paper, so I vote for the Times's placement.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 15, 2004 4:44 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Orioles in the media: The Sun.

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