Her interactive and dynamic two-hour session spanned topics from the Boston Celtic’s Rajon Rondo to the 2012 London Olympics to Dennis Rodman. MacMullan, who hails from Massachusetts and attended the University of New Hampshire, spoke about her own beginning in the business and a phone call that changed her life.
“I grew up in Westwood, and The Daily Transcript was the daily newspaper that covered all the sports teams, and we had all these incredible girls’ teams,” began MacMullan. “But it was always the boys they wrote about, and I used to get really frustrated, and my dad said, ‘Well, all you do is complain, why don’t you do something about it?’ And I said, ‘You know, maybe I will.’
“He said, ‘No, call the editor.’ And I said, ‘Well, you know, I might, I might.’ And he said, ‘No, you’re going to do it right now, because I’m tired of listening to you.’
“So I called up [the editor], and I really didn’t want to, and I said, ‘You know, I just was kind of wondering, you never cover the girls.’ And he said, ‘Well, who’s this?’ And I told him, and he said, ‘Well, do you want to write for me?’ I said, ‘I’m 16.’ He said, ‘Yeah, if it stinks, I won’t put it in.’”
But soon thereafter, MacMullan had a byline in The Daily Transcript, which, thanks to hard work and years of tenacity, eventually led to bylines in The Boston Globe, Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com.
“They paid me $7, and I wrote it by hand,” explained MacMullan, who in 2010 earned the Curt Gowdy Media Award from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts.
When she first started, MacMullan didn’t write every day.
“There was no rhyme or reason to what I did,” she said. “I was often writing about myself because I was playing all the sports, but that’s how I got interested, and by the time I was a senior in high school, I had my own column.”
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Now an author, columnist, and television personality, MacMullan, who named colleagues Will McDonough, Bob Ryan, and Leigh Montville among her biggest influences, clearly made the most of the opportunities she encountered as a high school and college student. But MacMullan also explained that the most important piece of advice she can give any budding sports journalist is to read and write as much as possible.
“Many of these kids could do the exact same thing. All you have to do is ask,” said MacMullan, who said that many newspapers are looking for young help. “They’re shorthanded. And the only way you can really be sure this is what you want and to be good at it is to write as much as you can and read as much as you can.”
However, MacMullan also pointed out that aspiring sportswriters should read and write about everything, not just the sports page.
“I started out in news, as a news intern, for two summers—one at The Gloucester Times, one at The Boston Globe, and that was also great background,” she said. “My father used to give me the paper, and I wanted to read the sports first, but he made me read the rest of the paper before he’d give me the sports section.”
As for the females in her audience at LA, MacMullan was pleased to report that they’ll enter the business on level ground with their male counterparts—a far cry from the gender bias she encountered as she worked toward her goals.
“It’s so different now,” said MacMullan. “Now it’s just, can you do it, or can’t you? And that’s how it should be.”