The 19th: Filling the Media Gap on Women and Politics

It’s a brutal media landscape with each year bringing more layoffs and buy-outs of journalists, and closures of big city dailies. Paper is dying, and the digital arms of legacy media entities must fend off content-stealing, bottom-feeding, celebrity-obsessed click-bait factories. It’s difficult for serious and thoughtful, or even middle-of-the-road mainstream journalism, to survive unless backed by very deep pockets and a vast reach. And if a media organization wants to address gender and race in a comprehensive fashion, it’s well-nigh impossible.

The 19th will provide more media coverage of women as they push for a larger share of power in American politics. (Image Credit: The 19th)

It’s tough sledding, but the benefits of an informed public are incalculable and essential to democracy, and can’t be judged solely by looking at the bottom line. Consequently, some philanthropists are stepping-up and underwriting news and information organizations, as is the case with the support for a novel venture, The 19th, “a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy.”

Named after the eponymous amendment, the 19th debuts 100 years after women gained the right to vote in the United States. The 19th notes that over half of the electorate is female, yet women are underrepresented in government and in the higher reaches of the business world. Moreover, “Women are also underrepresented in politics and policy journalism and in newsroom leadership, which influences what stories are told, how the news is covered and whose voices are elevated.”

The 19th aims to redress this imbalance, while at the same time acknowledging the role of race. The 19th’s logo has an asterisk to acknowledge that “the 19th Amendment remains unfinished business,” and that generations of non-whites and poor people have been excluded from voting and other elements of democracy, including full participation in the economy.

The 19th is based in Austin, Texas and will be fully operational in the Summer of 2020 with a planned staff of 22 (it’s recruiting now). The Washington Post will publish some of The 19th’s content before the full launch. The 19th’s start-up team comprises Emily Ramshaw (co-founder and CEO; previously editor-in-chief of The Texas Tribune, a digital, news and public-policy start-up), Amanda Zamora (co-founder and publisher; previously an editor, manager and strategist at The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and The Washington Post), Andrea Valdez (editor-in-chief; previously editor-in-chief of the Texas Observer and editor of WIRED.com), Errin Haines (editor-at-large; previously national writer on race for The Associated Press), and Johanna Derlega (chief revenue officer; previously president and founder of the media and marketing consultancy Broad Branch Strategies and publisher of The Hill).

The  19th promises the following:

  • Free-to-consume and free-to-republish journalism that reimagines politics and policy coverage through a gender lens.
  • Deep-dive, evidence-based reporting that exposes gender inequity and injustice, and reveals surprising and original stories on the issues that most deeply affect women’s lives, from health care to the economy.
  • A digital platform for civil conversations and community building, and national events that bring our readers into direct contact with their elected officials.
  • A newsroom that reflects the racial and socioeconomic diversity of American women and is devoted to covering all women with empathy.

The 19th is aiming to reach a diverse audience, which starts with its own composition as an organization. Moreover, The 19th is dedicated to women-friendly policies for its employees, including six months of maternity leave.

The 19th has an impressive group of “founding donors” drawn from a range of family, individual, and corporate foundations, as well as non-profit funds and organizations. The 19th is starting with nearly $5 million in funding, and one million dollar+ donors include Kathryn Murdoch/Quadrivium, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’  Reproductive Health and Women’s Rights Collaborative. In the $250,000-$999,999 category are Arnold Ventures, the Ford Foundation and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. An additional 13 donors have contributed $100,000-$249,999 to getting The 19th off the ground.

Quadrivium’s Co-Founder and President is Kathryn Murdoch, and the organization “supports practical, evidence-based solutions for critical societal problems.” It is particularly interested in improving the quality and responsiveness of U.S. democracy and public policy, fighting climate change and improving ocean health, increasing broad-based scientific knowledge, and harnessing the power of technology for societal good. (Fun trivia: Kathryn Murdoch is the daughter-in-law of right-wing media baron Rupert Murdoch).

The Reproductive Health and Women’s Rights Collaborative (RHWRC) is barely a year old, and counts among its founding donors the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the JPB Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Acton Family Giving. RHWRC’s focus is on funding the various avenues to achieving reproductive justice, gender equity and women’s rights.

These marquee donors, and “founding partners” League of Women Voters, Arrow and Riveter (female-centric co-working spaces), recognize the fundamental value of diverse voices in the media, and in funding the creation and dissemination of knowledge that empowers citizens to better understand their society, and take action to improve it.

The 19th is soliciting supporters at all levels, specifically, those “believe in our mission, our journalism and our audience — a diverse, multigenerational community of women who seek to meaningfully engage with the news and each other.”

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Philanthropy Women covers funding for gender equity in all sectors of society. We want to significantly shift public discourse, particularly in philanthropy, toward increased action for gender equality. You can support our work and access unlimited and premium content with one of our subscriptions.

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Author: Tim Lehnert

Tim Lehnert is a writer and editor who lives in Cranston, Rhode Island. His articles and essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Providence Journal, Rhode Island Monthly, the Boston Herald, the Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere. He is the author of the book Rhode Island 101, and has published short fiction for kids and adults in a number of literary journals and magazines. He received an M.A. in Political Science from McGill University, and an M.A. in English from California State University, Northridge.

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