ESPN to Feature Mount Holyoke Professor Martha Ackmann

Martha Ackmann

by: Clara Belle Lefton '12 | Photo Gallery

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. (Feb. 20 2012) – Gender Studies lecturer and author Martha Ackmann was recently filmed by ESPN to discuss her book Curveball. The narrative nonfiction piece describes the life of Toni Stone, the first female to play professional baseball in the Negro League.

“You can never go in with a sense of what you’re going to find,” said Ackmann about the process she took to create her book. “One of the most important things when you’re beginning to research a story is that you have to know why it interests you, [and] why other people might be interested in reading it as well.”

The ESPN crew traveled from their headquarters in the nearby Bristol, Conn. to shoot in Shattuck’s Cassini Lounge for four hours with Ackmann. The interview focused on how she learned about Stone, the arduous process she went through to gain information about the baseball player and her afterthoughts about writing a book.

 “The angle that you take, framing the question is really important. You can look at a story from one side and then just shift the focus on who you’re going to be looking at specifically and that can change it enormously.”

Although only a forty-minute interview, the camera crew also took shots of the professor talking with students and Ackmann sitting at her desk. Afterwards Mount Holyoke students were given the opportunity to speak with ESPN Feature Producer Tina Cerbone and ask questions about both the television and sports industry.

“I’m definitely looking at going into media so I’m at the point where I’m trying to find out what kind of media I want to do,” said Amherst Media intern and Gender Studies major Anam Sethi ’12. “I’m here to learn more tips on getting a job. Sports are something I haven’t really had a chance to get into.”

Cerbone explained to Sethi the unusual path she took to get to where she is today, which included changing her major according to what class she wanted to get into. By her junior year, she sparked an interest in television but ended up with an undergraduate degree in History from Fairfield University. Despite never taking a communications class, she pursued an internship with a local television station.

“It’s just about hard work in the beginning: willing to put in extra time [and] asking questions. Working my way up has always worked for me and not being afraid to try. But it is also a lot of who you know: always write down names and their number even if you talk to someone anywhere,” advised Cerbone.

Setting her aspirations high she went on to a variety of jobs including logging at the 2000 Olympics, freelancing and working on history and reality shows. Now at ESPN, she covers human-interest pieces and heard about Ackmann through an email the professor sent the station.

ESPN's piece on Ackmann will air on Monday, February 28 during SportsCenter between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. It will also appear on Outside the Lines on Tuesday, February 29 at 3:00 p.m.