Meet the first JAWS entrepreneurial fellow

Fellowships, JAWS CAMP 2014, Recent News l
MelissaLudtkewithMaya

Melissa Ludtke with daughter Maya

The Entrepreneurial Fellowship is one of our three new fellowship programs this year. It is designed to bring to CAMP an experienced journalist, who is working on an innovative journalism project consistent with the JAWS mission. JAWS received six impressive applications and the selection committee awarded the fellowship to JAWS member, Melissa Ludtke.

When Melissa applied for JAWS first ever Entrepreneurial Fellowship, her application opened with these words: “I might be a veteran journalist — going on 40 years in the business — but I’m a very young digital storytelling entrepreneur.”

In her mid-20s, she was a pioneering women sportswriter, when as a Sports Illustrated (SI) reporter she was the plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Major League Baseball; her side prevailed and she won equal access for women reporters so they could do their jobs in the same way that their male peers were doing theirs. For the next three decades, she lived a conventional journalism life — after SI, she went to CBS News, then she spent a decade at TIME focusing her reporting on girls and women and family issues. After taking time to report and write a book about unmarried motherhood (“On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America, Random House,” 1977), she then became one — when as a single mom she adopted her daughter Maya from China. Soon after, in 1988, she became editor of Nieman Reports, a global magazine and website about journalism published by the Nieman Journalism Foundation at Harvard University. She had been a Nieman Fellow.

Now, in her early 60s, she is once again navigating new ground as an entrepreneur with a (so-far) self-funded transmedia storytelling project called “Touching Home in China: In Search of Missing Girlhoods.” Working with a documentary filmmaker, she is producing a transmedia book — meshing video, narrative text, photo galleries, documents, informational graphics and maps into a seamlessly told story — and using an iBook Authors’ platform that will be digitally distributed to global audiences. The story revolves around a unique journey that her now 17-year-old daughter Maya and her Chinese orphanage crib neighbor Jennie, also adopted by an American family, took in the summer of 2013 to their rural “home” towns in Jiangsu province in China. The girls didn’t go in search of their anonymous birth families, as some of the 80,000 children adopted from China are beginning to do. Instead the two teenagers went in search of clues about their missing girlhoods — to discover from girls who grew up there what their lives might have been like if they had not been abandoned as newborns and raised in America as members of Caucasian families and communities. It will be the first-of-its-kind, cross-cultural, character-driven, personally told transmedia story about global girlhood, told in ways that appeal to casual readers/viewers and also to teachers and one-on-one student learners as a compelling educational resource.

Congratulations, Melissa!