When Christian Deiss stands in a group of fellow sports reporters, he usually stands out in the crowd.
There’s plenty of reasons for it -- he’s sometimes dressed more casually, he’s a bit shorter than the rest and his hair is very blonde.
But the main reason Deiss is noticed is he’s decades younger than the rest of the group -- 13, to be exact.
Deiss, a seventh-grader at Hurricane Middle, has been reporting on sports since he was 9. He grew up tagging along with his father, Charleston-based media consultant Joe Stevens, when he covered sports.
Deiss’s first job was as a contributing columnist for the Putnam Standard and Cabell Standard. After those papers folded, he joined the staff of Metro Putnam (now Putnam Review). He also contributes to MetroNews’s high school football coverage in the fall, reporting live after games.
His father sets up the interviews. Christian takes care of the rest.
He does it all while juggling school, track and cross country and middle school chorus. After training for track, he writes his column at Books and Brews in Hurricane. Some days are long. He’ll get home from school around 4 p.m., train until 7:30 p.m. and write until 9:30 p.m. that night.
He’ll fall asleep as soon as he gets home.
“Sometimes it wears down, and I get tired,” Deiss said. “It takes a lot of hard work and effort.”
As an athlete himself, he tries to connect to what the people he interviews are going through.
“You’ve had the experience they’ve had. You can make the sports side connection with that athlete,” Deiss said.
He’s interviewed two senators, dozens of coaches and players and a few general managers over multiple states. Sometimes they assume he’s writing for a school paper. Almost always they assume he’ll ask easy questions. His sources are surprised when they find out he’s done his research.
“They’ll kind of just light up,” Deiss said.
At this point, Christian is a veteran reporter, and on many stories people know him well. Fellow reporters save his spot in press boxes, and sources know him by first name. But occasionally people will interrupt or ignore him.
“Someone interrupted me one time, and the person I was interviewing was like ‘Hold on, he’s asking a question,’” Deiss said. “Usually the people I’m interviewing take me more seriously than some of the other reporters.”
Stevens now has to fill in for his son when he’s busy with track or school.
“Now they ask where Christian is,” Stevens said. “I’m chopped liver.”
Although the hours are long and the days are tough, Deiss plans on being a reporter for the rest of his life.
“I like meeting new people and meeting new athletes, and getting to know them and becoming friends with them,” Deiss said. “Being able to write is just awesome.”
Reach Ali Schmitz at email@example.com, 304-348-4843 or follow @SchmitzMedia on Twitter.