Young journalists meet sports pros

Ravens' seminar lets students interact with staff and sports media


After an afternoon of tips on breaking into sports communications, Wayne Richardson, a senior at Baltimore's Edmondson-Westside High School, had one final request for the sports reporters and Baltimore Ravens officials in attendance.

"Can I get e-mail addresses from you all?" he asked.

For the 40 juniors and seniors enrolled in the team's inaugural high school media seminar, yesterday offered a rare chance to get direct advice on careers in sports media.

Hearing from television, radio and newspaper journalists, as well as Ravens community and public relations officials, the students participated in sessions on such topics as how to get a job in the National Football League and what makes for a good broadcast tape.

"I really thought it was a good day," said Kevin Byrne, the Ravens vice president of public and community relations. "The caliber of students we had, they were sharp. They got it. They understood this was a good opportunity, and they knew what questions to ask."

Hard-luck stories were plentiful during the four hours at the Ravens' Owings Mills training facility.

Amber Theoharis, a sports anchor/reporter for WBFF-TV, dispelled any notion that her job was mostly glitz. She said she started in Salisbury making $16,000 a year - forced to wait tables part time until breaking into Baltimore, a top 30 television market.

"I do my own makeup," Theoharis said during one of her sessions. "I don't have a driver."

"I remember talks in college, having people in the industry come to speak," she added later. "They had a huge impact on me because they told me the realities of the business, and that is why I focused part of my presentation on the realness and what they will have to face day-to-day as a journalist rather than the glamour."

Greg Lessans, a senior at Pikesville High School who is headed to Syracuse University in the fall, said that he appreciated such frankness.

"Just being in the presence of people who have established themselves in the fields I want to be in, it's real-life proof that it can happen if you work hard," Lessans said.

To be selected, most of the students had to submit a 1,000-word essay detailing their interest in communications. For the Ravens, the forum was a continuation of a commitment made to local high school students over the past year. In September, the Ravens and Ray Lewis purchased home and away football uniforms for the city's 18 public school teams, and the team later bought uniforms for the city's high school girls basketball teams.

"We're starting to work closer with the schools, especially the city schools," Byrne said. "We've done things for athletic side of it, so we thought we could offer something with the media's help for the scholastic end but still in the sports field."

Ravens coach Brian Billick began the day by telling stories about his brief stint in public relations. Billick, who has a degree in journalism, was an assistant director of public relations for the San Francisco 49ers in the late 1970s and recalled being asked to arrange a breakfast for coaches the morning of the annual college draft.

The breakfast included everything imaginable except an essential for many a person trying to focus at 4 a.m. - coffee. "I went to Brigham Young University, and you couldn't have caffeine there, so it didn't even occur to me to get coffee," Billick said.

With this year's draft set to begin Saturday, Billick left shortly after his talk. Had the coach stuck around, Richardson might also have hit him up for contact information.

"Anybody can help," Richardson said. "I think it's very important to try and build as many relationships as you can."

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