Q&A interview by Asal Ehsanipour
By Marina Fang
Melissa Ludtke’s successful 1978 legal battle over access for female reporters covering baseball came from years of experiencing institutional sexism and working toward incremental changes. The story of her career provides lessons for women in journalism today, including the importance of networking, perseverance, creative solutions, defining your narratives, and simply doing the work, no matter how small the task.
The Top Five
- “It isn’t about the resume any longer. It’s about the networking, who you get to know.” Example: Ludtke’s roommate worked in production at ABC Sports, which helped her figure out when there were opportunities to get her foot in the door.
- Perseverance pays off. Find creative ways to get employers to hire you. At first, Ludtke didn’t get a job at Sports Illustrated, but kept sending them postcards from games to show what she was doing at ABC. SI eventually hired her.
- On every job, demonstrate that you’re committed. In Ludtke’s case, “I agreed early on to do what was really a tedious assignment: keeping the baseball books.” That showed her bosses: “I really wanted to do baseball.”
- Change happens in increments. “I was working under the radar, very gradually trying to prove myself,” she said, noting how we often do this as women. For example, at first, she used the clubhouse passes to report from the locker room before the games.
- “Changing the law is easier than changing the culture.” Cultural change is slow and requires all of us to take part, something we continue to see today.
“I really took the gradualist approach,” Ludtke said. “But the coverage of me turned into ‘this pushy broad.'” Ludtke explained she didn’t know how to push back and define her own narrative herself, and admires how today, women are more active in defining their own narratives, like responding to criticism on social media.