Ohio Journalist

Fearless Female Journalists

By Anna Moore

(December 1, 2015) — When she was a little girl, the Athens native and pint-sized dynamo would march down to The Athens Messenger’s office on Court Street and pick up the paper for her father. But on April 12, 1912, the bold headline “TITANIC SINKS” sparked Ludel Sauvageot’s passion for journalism that never faded.

As the first female journalist to graduate from Ohio University in 1927, Sauvageot created a tradition for future female journalists with her courageous spirit in foreign correspondence and philanthropy. Her legacy lives on today through current Scripps students Taylor Pool and Victoria Calderon, who have left the brick streets of Athens to pursue journalism abroad.

According to Ludel’s son, Jules Sauvageot, his mother was about “4 foot 11 inches and always moved at the speed of light.” As an undergrad, Ludel entered into the maledominated field of journalism and wrote for school publications such as The Green and White, the predecessor of The Post, and the risqué Green Goat magazine. After graduation, she didn’t waste any time and went straight to work in the hills of Appalachia, bringing aid to poverty in Kentucky, West Virginia and southern Ohio.

Ludel often spoke of this as “the most exciting time in her life,” said Jules, as she witnessed people leaving their hollers for the first time to become literate and realizing what the modern world had for them outside of Appalachia. It didn’t matter if she was speaking to George Starr Lasher (her good friend and the first director of the journalism school) or a homeless man, she gave everyone the same respect and found joy in telling their stories.

There were limited expectations for women in the late 1920s, but Ludel exceeded them all. Audaciously chasing down criminals during Prohibition was a regular assignment for the 22-year-old while she was working in Antioch, Ill. She even witnessed a speakeasy gangster shoot a restaurant owner point blank as Ludel was eating dinner.

When she wasn’t volunteering or reporting on mobster violence, she would race to stunt journalism pieces, like the time she rode passenger in an open-top fighter plane. The barrel rolls and dizzying spins may have left her ill, but she still cranked out the story that day — from a bathroom stall.

FROM APPALACHIA TO AFRICA

That same adventurous spirit is strong within the heart of Taylor Pool, a broadcast journalism major and 2013 Scripps graduate. While traveling down a crowded and dust-clouded desert road in Africa in a car with Nigerian TV news crewmembers, Taylor asked herself, “What the heck am I, a small town girl from Mentor, Ohio, doing here?” But then she took a moment to smile, swelling with pride in the sweltering backseat for really doing it — becoming a foreign correspondent.

After receiving the Maxine Stewart Scholarship, Taylor had the means to get to Africa. She has completed an internship in Niamey, Niger, in West Africa as a communications coordinator with a missions organization where she created news content for a local TV news station.

Life in West Africa had many quirks that took Pool some time to get used to. Although it was no longer the “hot season,” a chocolate bar would still liquefy in ten minutes, even inside, at night, with fans blowing full speed. In Pool’s blog, Histoires du Sahel, she discussed some of the idiosyncrasies of living in Niger.

“There are large lizards that live in our kitchen and on the exterior wall of the home, and goats wander the streets like it’s nobody’s business,” she wrote. And in Niamey, “the road lanes are made up and the traffic rules don’t matter. People cross the street at any time, sometimes carrying large baskets of assorted items on their heads.”

The media culture in Niger is far different from the free press enjoyed in the U.S. In Niger, there are strict rules about where one can and cannot use a camera, making broadcast journalism tricky.

Despite an external hard drive catastrophe that resulted in her losing all of her video content (she blames the heat, a constant layer of dust and bumpy car rides), Pool felt fully prepared by her broadcast courses at Scripps and the encouraging words from Bob Stewart and Yusuf Kalyango.

“I already know I will miss buying fruits and vegetables at separate stands on the street, wearing long skirts and moccasins to fit in with the nationals and waking up in a city that is completely different from my hometown,” Pool said. However, she definitely won’t miss boiling water before taking a “shower” out of a bucket.

Much like the first female journalist from OU, Pool keeps her character and faith at the heart of her career goals.

“No matter where I end up, in a foreign country or at home, my intention is always to glorify God,” Pool said.

A JOURNALIST ON THE MOVE

Much like Ludel Sauvageot, who volunteered in Cuba and Appalachia as a young woman, Victoria Calderon worked with media and health organizations last summer in Jamaica and Zambia.

Receiving a John R. Wilhelm Foreign Correspondence Award meant Calderon’s lifelong dream of going to Africa was going to become a reality. Equipped with a camera and notebook, which she calls her security blanket, Calderon was excited to “take what Scripps gave me, and give back.”

“People thought I was crazy for wanting to really focus on health science with journalism, but Dr. Stewart really encouraged me, even as a freshman.” With an arsenal of successful alumni giving their guidance and real world experience, Calderon has been able to navigate her way through foreign countries such as Germany and Guatemala with confidence.

Although Calderon had to decide whether to work for the Zambia Daily News or another Zambian paper familiarly titled The Post this summer, she knew she would find a health non-profit to volunteer for as well. For Calderon, creating news content for a greater good is essential, but so is actually lending a hand.

“I am learning that medical care is so much more than sending doctors and medicine,” Calderon said about her most recent medical mission in Guatemala. Even though she was unable to brush her teeth with tap water for the entire summer, “It was the most rewarding experience in my life, turning a jungle patio into a medical center and treating 100-plus patients every day.”

Few things kept Ludel Sauvageot from her goals, be it becoming the first woman journalist from OU or scaling the Acropolis under the searing Grecian sun at the age of 80. Even a debilitating hip fracture at the age of 84 didn’t stop her from boarding a 28-hour flight from Thailand for her induction into the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame in 1990.

With the knowledge gained within the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, female journalists like Pool and Calderon can successfully continue Ludel’s legacy for countless generations to come.

“Age has little to do with ability,” Ludel always said. “You are never too old or young to make a difference in the world.”

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