Between attending classes and completing school assignments, 17-year-old Reese Levin can be found on the sidelines of a Meade High School sports game feverishly taking notes.
The Meade High senior and Laurel resident is the contributing writer for The Left Bench JV, the high school extension of the University of Maryland’s sports blog, The Left Bench.
“This year I’m not going to play baseball because I want to focus on journalism,” Levin said. “… I know I don’t have a future in baseball, so I might as well stick to journalism. I’ll get to report on the baseball team. I think merging [my] two passions into one [has been] amazing.”
During his third year at the Shirley Povich Center Summer Sports Journalism camp, Levin became good friends with Michael Stern, a senior studying broadcast journalism at the University of Maryland, Povich summer camp counselor and one of TLB’s co-founders.
Stern pitched to the group of aspiring journalists the idea of becoming contributing sports writers for TLBJV. Passionate about both sports and journalism, Levin was immediately interested in the opportunity.
“Reese is among the most ambitious and eager high school journalists I have ever met or worked with,” Stern said in an email. “… His drive to continue to learn is what immediately made me think of him when I decided to start the TLBJV program.
“I challenge anyone to find a high school student with the amount of passion for something that Reese has for TLBJV.”
Becoming A Journalist
To say Levin loves sports is an understatement.
“The day I came out the womb I probably was screaming sports,” he said.
When he was 4 years old, Levin started playing T-ball. He went on to try out for soccer, flag football and basketball but ultimately stuck with baseball.
Levin laid the foundation for his sports journalism career in sixth grade during summers at the Play-by-Play Sports Journalism camp at Notre Dame University in Baltimore. In 10th grade he learned about the Shirley Povich Center Summer Sports Journalism camp, which focuses on sports writing over broadcasting.
“It was really unique the way [my passions] merged,” Levin said.
Since September, Levin has churned out 20 stories about Meade High athletics.
“I really enjoyed covering soccer,” he said. “[The coach] embraced me, and I basically felt like I was part of the team, which was a really cool experience.”
Learning To Report Sports
By October, TLBJV was nominated for The Baltimore Sun’s 2016 “Maryland’s Outstanding Blogs” — better known as “The Mobbies” — for the Best Newcomer category. Between Oct. 12 and Nov. 25, the public voted to determine the results of the 14 Mobbie categories. In December, Levin was notified that TLBJV had won first place.
“That was a really cool experience, and I’m happy it went in my favor,” said Levin, who is currently the only contributor of TLBJV.
Levin chooses the games he can cover based on his homework assignments. He writes his stories the night of the game, sends it off to his University of Maryland editors, and publishes it on the TLBJV Word Press website the next day.
In addition to his regular school assignments, Levin is also part of the International Baccalaureate Programme at Meade High and participates in Student Ambassadors, a program that helps welcome new students to Meade.
Levin used his IB projects to explore his interest in sports journalism.
“For my [Middle Years Programme Personal Project], I did ‘A Day in the Life of a Sports Journalist,’ ” he said. “I talked to David Steele [from ‘Sporting News’], Pete Gilbert [a sports anchor at WBAL-TV] and Fred Manfra, the Orioles radio broadcaster.
“I got to go into the radio booth before the game to talk to him, and he showed me around the press box.”
Levin has honed a handful of necessary skills to help him as he pursues his journalism career at a collegiate level.
“Over time my questions have gotten better and my interviewing skills have gotten better,” he said. “I don’t have a set deadline, but I’m usually done before midnight. I don’t get enough sleep, but the rush that I feel when I’m [writing] is just amazing.”
During his first game as a reporter for TLBJV, Levin was tweeting out game information and misspelled one word. He learned one of the most important lessons of being a reporter that day as his friends reacted to his mistake.
“Some dude put it out there: ‘I know you want to be a journalist, but if you want to be a journalist you need to spell this word right,’ ” Levin recalled. “I’ve been slowing down when I’m tweeting and finding time to tweet during the game.”
His progress in reporting games hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“When Reese started, he still needed to learn some basics about reporting,” Stern said. “Since that first football game he covered, he has improved his writing exponentially. He also has taken up some modern journalistic practices that some professionals haven’t even started. When he reports on a game, he live tweets, takes videos and writes his recap simultaneously. It’s very tough for me to emphasize how impressive that is.
“Reese’s work ethic continues to astound me and inspire me to be a better journalist. It’s because of students like him that we are expanding the TLBJV program in the next month or so.”
Throughout his triumphs and pitfalls, Levin has turned to his guidance counselor Tiffany Spalding.
“She’s my work mom basically,” he said.
Spalding has been impressed with Levin’s journey as a journalist.
“Reese is one of those kids who has always known what he wanted to do,” she said. “He’s out there on the front lines doing the work. He’s actually working on his goals.
“He’s a go-getter — that’s the bottom line.”
Looking ahead, Levin aspires to report for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” and ESPN’s “E:60.”
“That is the dream,” he said. “If I could get on ‘Real Sports’ as a correspondent, I would know I’ve made it. Investigative journalism is one of my dreams, along with sports [journalism].”
Editor’s note: For sports updates from Meade High School, follow Reese on Twitter @Reese_Levin19.