Numerous times during my conversation with Lilly Ledbetter for this week's feature story (starting here), she made a comment that I could immediately see in print — something somehow off-beat, laugh-out-loud funny or, most often, controversial.
She'd speak, and I'd get that fluttery feeling in my stomach: Yes! This will make a great lead.
And then, just as fast, as if she'd seen the butterflies furiously flapping their wings, she'd say, "I'd rather you don't put that in ... I don't need any more lawsuits."
It became obvious pretty quickly that as much as Ledbetter has been front and center in the pay-equality fight, she didn't come into this as an activist. She was basically a mother and a hard worker who knew that what her employer was doing — paying the men around her significantly more than she was earning, for the same work — was wrong. And she decided to do something about it.
Doing something "for the money" is often seen negatively. In this case, though, Ledbetter did it for the right to the money she should have earned, which would help her raise her family and keep her going through retirement. And she continues pushing so the women who follow her will be able to be confident in their compensation.
So, yeah, it's often more difficult to craft an interesting story without the type of quotes that make headlines. But to engage people on this topic, it actually shouldn't take the fanciest or most flammable words.