Friday, June 1, 2007

TSF Interview with Jamestown Sun Sportswriter Kalen Ost

Well, here is The Sports Flow's first real (yes real) sports related interview, with Jamestown Sun Sportswriter Kalen Ost. Mr. Ost also has a blog of his own, which can found here: Ost's Posts.

Q1. How did you get into the career of sports journalism? Can you gradually describe the steps you took to become a full-time sportswriter at the Jamestown Sun.

Well, me getting into sports started when I was in college at Dickinson State working for their student newspaper. I conned my way into getting to ride on the band/fan bus down to the NAIA national basketball tournament and got full press credentials. We got our own media room with free food and a court side seat with up-to-the-minute stats on a computer. I was fairly impressed.

Unfortunately getting into sports wasn’t really an option at that point in Dickinson. Brian Alexander and Pete Alpern were locked into that department and so I took a job in the newsroom. But again I was able to work on the powers that be to allow me to travel to random sporting events that BA and PA couldn’t get to and basically got to learn from two very very solid workers of the craft.

The sports job opened in Jamestown when Mike Weber moved to the Bismarck Tribune and I jumped at the chance.

Q2. Can you give me a quick rundown of the average day in the life of the sports writer Kalen Ost?

Depending on if I’m going outside the office to cover something I’ll usually use the time from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. to do random things like try and find some recent articles about the teams I’d be covering, or a roster or something, online from home.

I’m usually in the Sun office by 3 p.m. and I get started typing up anything that came in over the night/morning, be it a sports brief, local agate, bowling results, a random track meet, whatever. Depending on the day this can take anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour.

If I’m not covering an event, I’m likely laying out pages, which I usually start doing after I get back from supper at about 6:30 p.m. or 7 p.m. We do three pages of sports at the Sun – one person does a front and a third page (for jumps and the agate) and another usually does the second page which tends to be our Class B roundups, national roundups and if we can’t get something on the front. Our deadlines aren’t too terribly early, but it is one of those things where it seems like we are always adding things to the pages after we proof them which is usually around 10 p.m. or so. Well…right now anyway. In the winter, I’m usually still working on Class B basketball roundups at 10 p.m.

If I had to guess I’m usually done and heading home by midnight. Some nights a little later, others a little earlier. In the end it all averages out to probably midnight. Get home, chase my cats around for a little bit, crawl into bed and maybe watch some TV and am usually asleep before 1 a.m.

Q3. Unlike most people, watching and covering sports is your job. Do you ever have to remind yourself that you get paid to cover what the majority of people consider to be entertainment?

Generally no. Sporting events are serious stuff, a lot of people care about what goes on and if you treat it with anything less than what it deserves, you’ll just produce crap for copy. Writing a story can either be really easy or really hard and generally the difference is how much you know about what is going on. That isn’t to say that you have to be an expert in the sport.

Take soccer for instance. I don’t get soccer. I suppose I don’t mind watching it live, but it isn’t like I would be there if it wasn’t for work. So with that said, it probably should be fairly hard for me to put anything together on it. But once you get a feel for the team(s) you are covering, it all just falls into place. Did the team have trouble scoring – why or why not? Did the goalie give up any goals? How does this game affect the standings? If I didn’t take it seriously when I was there, someone else probably would, and they would probably have my job. And then I would be poorer than I am now.

Q4. What local sports do you cover and which do you enjoy the most and why?

My official title is Class B reporter. But I suppose my unofficial title is that of a floater. I just kind of move from area to area (be it Class B, Jamestown College, Jamestown High School) and help out where I’m needed and do whatever. I prefer it to just having one thing I cover every day – keeps it fresh, keeps me on my toes.

Tough to say what I enjoy the most, really. If I had to narrow down a sport, it would either be baseball or football. Baseball, to me anyway, is fairly easy to write because everything is set out in front of you in a very concrete way and if you have some stats, you are good to go.

Football has a few more moving parts on the field, and I have a tendency to get overwhelmed by what I could write about. But once I decide on something I generally like writing about it.

Q5. Can you describe the typical routine that a sports journalist performs when covering an event? How does a journalist decide what plays take precedent over others? There are turning points in games that are obvious to the average fan, but how does a journalist dig deep within games to find material that isn't as obvious?

Honestly, it depends on how good you are and your familiarity with the team you are covering. Take a couple of years ago when PBK played May-Port in the opening round of the state B basketball tournament. The game was decided by eight points or so, as MPCG went on to win. PBK led most of the first half and basically only was outplayed for about 4 minutes to start the third quarter. But within that, there was a sequence in which the Patriots’ point guard had an assist, a steal, and a key offensive rebound which swung momentum to MPCG for just a few moments and PBK wasn’t ever quite able to recover. PBK wasn’t used to playing from behind, they went undefeated through the regular season and played more wide-open, and while they did pretty well with controlled, methodical possessions early in the game, that one short stretch proved to be their undoing for the whole game.

If I hadn’t watched PBK for something like 10 games that season I probably wouldn’t have felt comfortable enough with their team to make that assessment, and if I hadn’t been talking to the Herald writer, Greg DeVillers, who had watched MPCG a couple of times I probably wouldn’t have been comfortable to make the assessment of MCPG’s style. But, if you feel like what you are saying is a credible statement, and you feel like you know what you are talking about, I don’t know…it just sort of works.

Q6. Would you ever consider taking a job at another newspaper? If so, is there a place that you would specifically prefer?

I’d probably consider working at another paper, but it has to be a right-time, right-place kind of thing. My wife and I are kind of settled into J-town right now and it would take a pretty fantastic offer to dynamite me out of there. In a vacuum, if I could just go anywhere and cover anything, I’d probably try and settle in with either a small-market pro team or a middle-tier Division I college team. Someplace where you are going to see some pretty good athletes and teams but you aren’t going to have to put up with drama and what-not on a day-to-day basis.

Q7. So you are a Milwaukee Brewers fan… Why do you think your Brewers have been in such a funk lately and what do you think they need to do to get things going again?

I think probably the first thing they need to do is to start playing some teams from the NL Central again. In all seriousness, I think the pitching staff is stable as long as Sheets is healthy so basically the problems lie in the offense.

Specifically with certain players. Weeks and his .250 average just isn’t going to get it done out of the leadoff spot. JJ is solid. Prince is solid. The Jenks/Mench platoon is bang for the buck. Bill Hall has half the home runs he had at this point in the season last year. The platoon of Counsell and Graffanino, whoever dreamed up that big-bopping-duo should probably be fired.

But I really disagree with bringing up Ryan Braun and batting him in the 3-hole from day 1 as a replacement. They should have put him in the No. 7 hole for a little bit and just let him soak in the difference between AAA and MLB pitching.

Personally, I think that is too much pressure for a rookie. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather play a guy in a position that fits his abilities instead of demanding his abilities fit the position he’s playing. I think rookies should get a little bit of the white-glove treatment initially before you bring the hammer down on them.

If the offense could produce a run or two more a game, the starting rotation takes care of the first 2/3 of the game and then you go to the shutdown stuff of Matty Wise, Turnbow and Cordero and basically that turns into a 95-win season.

I would like to thank Mr. Ost for his time, he's always busy especially with all the state high school tournaments going on lately.

1 comment:

twins15 said...

Excellent interview!