Awards & Honors
- Yankee Quill Award, 2010
- Front Page Award, Newswomen's Club
of New York
- Mary Garber Pioneer Award, Association of Women in Sports Media
- Unity Award in Media, Time magazine
Executive Editor Melissa Ludtke is an acclaimed award-winning journalist who has reported for Time magazine, CBS News, and Sports Illustrated. She edited the Nieman Reports at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for 13 years. To pursue her writing in social and political justice issues, she was awarded academic fellowships from Harvard University, Radcliffe College, and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. In 2010 Ludtke received the Yankee Quill Award for lifetime achievement as a journalist.
Ludtke made history while covering baseball as a reporter for Sports Illustrated. After Commissioner Bowie Kuhn denied her access to interview ballplayers in team locker rooms, Time Inc., the company that owned Sports Illustrated, filed a federal lawsuit (Ludtke v. Kuhn). The lawsuit claimed that Major League Baseball’s media policy of providing unequal access to women reporters violated her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving her of the liberty to fully pursue a career in sports reporting. In September 1978, a federal judge agreed, establishing equal access to locker rooms for women reporters. Her papers related to this groundbreaking suit are archived at Harvard’s Schlesinger Library, and her oral history of this period in time is preserved as part of the Washington Press Club Foundation’s Women in Journalism oral history project.
Her successful legal case captured international attention with such memorable newspaper headlines such as “Babes in Boyland,” “‘Battle of the Sexes’ Invades Sports’ Locker Rooms,” “How Far Does Equality Go?,” and “Grab your towel, Mean Joe Green.” American Journalism Review declared, “No single action resonated with female journalists more than the 1978 federal court ruling granting equal access for women covering sports.” Artifacts—such as the press passes issued to her as an accredited journalist to cover the 1977 and 1978 World Series and that granted her locker room privileges at the same time the baseball commissioner denied her this right, are exhibited at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., and later this spring, a display highlighting her contributions to sports reporting will be included at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. as part of its permanent Diamond Dreams exhibit.
As the editor of Nieman Reports, Ludtke repositioned the magazine by focusing each issue around a hub of compelling issues facing journalists during a transitional time of huge upheaval in the industry. To give readers a full understanding of these issues and to help them cope with changes, she recruited the most experienced and prominent journalists from around the world. They wrote on the changing landscapes of editing, reporting, photojournalism, and broadcasting.
She played an instrumental role in moving the magazine from a print-only publication into a digital presence on the Web. She developed a companion website for educators, Professor’s Corner, and also expanded the reach of the magazine through the strategic use of social media tools.
As a domestic correspondent for Time magazine, Ludtke reported from the New York, Los Angeles, and Boston bureaus. She covered the 1984 Summer Olympics and that fall’s presidential campaign, but her primary focus at Time was reporting on political and social issues affecting children and families. In her numerous cover stories, she explored difficult social issues such as the rising rate of out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy, the quality of and access to affordable child care and health care, the effectiveness of homeless programs, the consequences for “crack” babies, and a wide range of education issues. Her 20-page cover story, “Through the Eyes of Children,” published in 1988, was the culmination of several months of reporting as she lived in the homes of children. At a time when children’s issues were gaining political attention, this project gave readers an intimate look from a child’s viewpoint of what it was like to be growing up at that time.
Ludtke's deep reporting on these issues, at a time when family structure and the roles played by parents, especially women, in the workforce and at home were changing, provided her with a firm foundation for her groundbreaking book, “On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America,” (Random House, 1997, University of California Press, 1999). Author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin described “On Our Own” as a “gripping, deeply researched, and beautifully written book.” Harvard professor William Julius Wilson described it as “the most insightful and thoughtful study I have read on unmarried motherhood in America.”
While she worked on her book, Ludtke wrote several reports for the Foundation for Child Development, documenting first the role business leaders can play as effective political advocates for children’s issues, and then later documenting the Early Education for All (EEA) campaign in Massachusetts. Her narrative storytelling illuminated the behind-the-scenes efforts of grass-roots organizers to pass legislation that would enable all three-, four- and five-year-old children access to high-quality early education.
Ludtke also worked as a media/policy consultant with the Casey Journalism Center for Children and Families, where she organized conferences for journalists on topics such as welfare reform, children’s health, and early childhood development. She consulted on federal legislation in public education for the National Urban Reform Network at the Boston-based Community Training and Assistance Center, and worked on local policy issues for the Boston Plan for Excellence in the Public Schools. She also co-directed media training for childcare advocates and providers in Massachusetts through a grant from the Schott Foundation.
At the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Ludtke worked with academics in researching and writing about children’s issues for the Initiatives for Children Project. At Radcliffe’s Public Policy Institute, she administered the EMMA awards presented by the college in partnership with the National Women’s Political Caucus to recognize excellence in media coverage of women’s issues.
Ludtke has worked with university students, leading several study groups at the Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and teaching introductory journalism at Emerson University as an adjunct professor. She briefly tried her hand at politics in the mid-1980s; she took a leave from Time to serve as Joe Kennedy’s issues director for his first campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Her work has been honored with a number of awards. Her Yankee Quill Award for Lifetime Achievement as a journalist was described as “the highest individual honor bestowed on journalists in New England, and cited Ludtke’s “distinguished history of fighting for equal opportunities for women sportswriters, deft editing of one of America’s most thoughtful journalism publications, and conscientious involvement with children’s and other social organizations.” While a reporter at Sports Illustrated, she won a Front Page Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York. The Association of Women in Sports Media presented her with its Mary Garber Pioneer Award, as well as a Friend of AWSM Award. She was co-winner of a Unity Award in Media for reporting on politics for Time magazine.
From Harvard University, Ludtke was awarded a prestigious Nieman Fellowship for which she pursued coursework related to family, women and children issues. She studied poverty policy with David Ellwood at the Kennedy School, adolescent psychology with Carol Gilligan at the Graduate School of Education, and family law with Elizabeth Bartholet at Harvard Law School. While researching and writing “On Our Own,” Ludtke received appointments as a Fellow at Radcliffe’s Public Policy Institute and as a Visiting Scholar at Radcliffe’s Henry R. Murray Center, then the college’s archive for longitudinal studies in the social sciences. She also received a Prudential Fellowship in the Coverage of Children at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.