As we continue our celebration of Women in Sports for Women’s History Month, today we introduce you to a New Jersey sports reporter, Susan Lulgjuraj. Susan covers South Jersey sports for The Press of Atlantic City and writes about the trading card industry for Beckett Media. While a sports career was not always in her mind growing up, Susan couldn’t be happier with where she is right now and has enjoyed every minute of her career.
Growing up as a young girl, were you always into sports?
I sure was! I was the girl always playing with the boys and having to hear the older ladies saying, “You should have been a boy.” Scraped knees and dirty hands were part of the daily routine for me. I played volleyball, basketball and softball in high school and softball in college too.
When did you realize sports reporting and journalism was the direction you wanted to take in your career?
There was a time growing up when I was adamant that I wanted to be a doctor. I studied the human body in textbooks and read all I can. Then when I was 15, I went to a high school where I had to pick a major and I chose chemistry. In about a month, I found out how much I disliked science. So, I thought: “What do I like to do?” Writing and sports. Ah, I’m going to write about sports.
You’ve covered everything from baseball, football, basketball, and hockey to college, high schools, and golf. Do you have a particular favorite?
My favorite sport is the one I am covering at the time. I know it sounds crazy, but I get so focused on what I am writing about and get so entrenched in it. I’ll cover a beach volleyball game and think next week I’m going to take the sport up. I’ll cover an LPGA event and think, maybe I can be on the tour one day. But then the next week when I am covering a new event, that’s the event I love.
Was it difficult for you to gain respect as a female sports reporter?
No. I’m a professional in the way I conduct myself and for the most part have been treated as equal among colleagues. The most difficulty I’ve had was dealing with minor league baseball players. So many of them are still kids and I get the feeling it has nothing to do with me being a reporter and more to do with the little respect they have for women in general.
You were the first woman in the state of NJ to win the sports portfolio category at the New Jersey Press Association’s yearly awards. What does that honor mean to you?
It was exciting to win because it was the first award I’ve ever won. That year I wrote some special, meaningful stories including one about me and my friendships with people at Yankee Stadium. It felt great to be recognized and I took my mom with me to the award ceremony because I felt with all the work she did to pay for my college, she deserved to be honored as well.
As you pursued your career in sports journalism, was there anyone you looked at as a role model or inspiration?
My mother has worked so hard her whole life. She’s not a writer, but a woman who came to the United States in the 1960′s and wanted the best life for her family. Any time I think I’m having a bad day, I think of everything my mom has sacrificed to give me an education and good foundation for the strength I have today.
Do you feel that women are respected enough in the sports industry yet or is there still some need for improvement in that?
I think people are disrespected regardless if they’re a man or woman. Do I notice it more with women? Probably, because it’s something we’ve looked out for. I think people as a whole could go a long way in respecting each other no matter the gender or race.
You are active on the social media front. How important do you feel it is to stay in contact with readers in that way?
The digital media world is here and if you cannot embrace it you are not going to thrive. Social media has become an exciting way to get instant feedback from readers – negative or positive – but I think one of the best things about it is that people tell you what they want to know about. It takes a lot of the guess work out.
Are you where you want to be with your career or do you have further goals and aspirations?
I’m never where I want to be. I have lots of plans for myself.
Looking back on your career so far, is there one interview that stands out as your favorite? Or one event in which you covered?
My favorite interview was the first: Derek Jeter. I grew up in New York, I was born in the Bronx. I was 16 years old when the Yankees won the World Series in 1996. So, in 2001 when I got an opportunity to interview Jeter for my internship, it was one of the most exciting professional moments. However, there are people who aren’t famous that I’ve enjoyed interviewing far more than any celebrity. Real people with real stories.
Favorite moment: Roy Halladay’s no-hitter in the playoffs. Oh, and interviewing Chuck Norris.
Follow Susan on Twitter @ACPressSusan_L, don’t be afraid to say hi!