By Vin Gallo
Springfield College’s communications/sports journalism (COSJ) program is going on its 18th year in existence. From the beginning, the major has educated and shaped a number of successful journalists who have gone on to great things in the fields of journalism and communications.
Last month, The Best American Sports Writing of 2015 was published,and Matt Tuthill, a member of the program’s first graduating class, shined on one of the brightest stages in feature writing. Tuthill was awarded a spot in the edition’s notable sports writing of 2015 for his feature story on transgender bodybuilder, Janae Kroczaleski.
Tuthill enrolled into Springfield’s first COSJ class in the fall of 1999, and graduated in 2003.
“Matt was very likeable from the beginning,” said communications/sports journalism professor Marty Dobrow, who began teaching at the major’s beginning in 1999. “He developed [as a journalist] tremendously.”
Though Dobrow noted that Tuthill was not a star from the start. He was not someone who would identify in his first or second year as someone who was going to be a top notch professional journalist.
Before his graduation however, Tuthill began to excel in a way that suggested he could one day make both Dobrow and the communications program proud.
“By the end of the time he was here, there were signs that if he was willing to commit to this in a deep way, that there were big possibilities [for him in the field],” Dobrow said.
Tuthill’s potential awakened in the spring of his senior year, when he crafted a lengthy and detailed feature on the retirement of longtime Springfield professor David Carlson. This would only be the beginning.
“It was done with such thoughtfulness, such grace, and humor,” Dobrow said. “He was so perceptive, that I read it and thought that [he] was a guy who can really do something [with feature writing].”
Following his graduation, Tuthill kicked off his journalism career with The Bennington Banner, a small newspaper in Vermont. He would eventually work his way up to the title of associate sports editor with The Banner, however Tuthill was not certain about proceeding with a career in journalism. He moved to New York and became a personal trainer before jumping at the opportunity to freelance-write for Muscle and Fitness magazine, working his way through the ranks to become an editor.
It would be at Muscle and Fitness where he would meet the subject of his award-winning story, who at the time identified as bodybuilder Matt Kroczaleski. Tuthill originally knew Kroczaleski as a contributor to the magazine. After Kroczaleski’s contributions died down, rumors began to swirl that he was a cross-dresser. Soon after, the news broke that Kroczaleski would transition to a female known as Janae Kroczaleski.
After Tuthill reached out to the body-builder via email, Kroczaleski accepted an interview for a feature story, and Tuthill would promptly jump on a plane for Michigan. He would speak to Kroczaleski for 13 hours, while observing her photoshoot and home, and Tuthill would have a week to turn the experience into the story. Despite the time crunch, Tuthill had an abundance of information thanks to Kroczaleski’s willingness to open up, and he was able to create an impactful story.
“To publish [the story] in Muscle and Fitness – I thought that that was an audience who needed to hear a story about someone that the magazine had championed so much over the years as being the ultimate of the ultimate,” said Tuthill. “If the [audience] could see that this ultimate badass has this other side – that can only be a good thing, to get people to think, ‘okay I shouldn’t think poorly of transgender folks anymore. Because now I know somebody.’”
The reception was not all positive. Tuthill needed to persuade Muscle and Fitness to run the story in its entirety rather than in a two-page piece that would run strictly online. Readers spewed angry, and in some cases lewd, comments on the magazine’s online pages. Subscriptions were cancelled. Muscle Tech, one of Kroczaleski’s sponsors who dropped her, refused to appear in the story. But despite backlash, the story’s message stood tall.
“I was so impressed by how well reported the story was, how beautifully and thoughtfully it was written, how important it was,” Dobrow said. “This was a culturally important story.”
Though his feature is not anthologized in the 2015 issue itself, Tuthill still received recognition on a national stage as part of the minute percentage of stories to make the grade.
“[The Notable Sports Writing of 2015] is still a huge achievement,” said Dobrow. “It’s great for him, great for his career, and it’s another thing that gives a sense that you can come out of this major and do some big things in journalism.”