The 19th* Co-Founder on The ‘Overdue’ Racial Reckoning in Newsrooms

Emily Ramshaw on why the organization is launching at such a “critical” moment for women

Ignited by protests nationwide over racial inequality, American newsrooms are having a reckoning of their own. Protests, petitions, and internal complaints about inequalities have come into public view at major publications, including The New York Times and Bon Appétit.

Emily Ramshaw, co-founder and CEO of news organization The 19th*, believes the recent reckoning in newsrooms has been a long time coming. “This racial reckoning in newsrooms is so important — it’s so overdue,” Ramshaw told Wake-Up Call.

While many media companies make pledges to ramp up diversity and inclusivity efforts, Ramshaw said the nonpartisan newsroom has hired journalists of color from the ground up. She estimates that women of color compromise about 75 percent of her newsroom, adding that “those were also just the absolute best hires for those jobs.”

The 19th* is a nonprofit news organization, with a focus on gender, politics and policy. The name comes from the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution — and the asterisk shows that there’s still work to be done. The organization is hoping to make a splash with its inaugural virtual summit, commemorating the suffrage centennial, which begins Monday, August 10. The event features high-profile speakers, including Stacey Abrams, Hillary Clinton, and Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex.

Ramshaw emphasized that even before the protests against racism following the police killing of George Floyd in May, representation was at the center of their focus. Ramshaw launched the new brand, alongside fellow former Texas Tribune colleague Amanda Zamora.

“We were trying to build the nation’s first newsroom that was truly representative of the nation’s women,” Ramshaw said.

Ramshaw, who was previously Editor-in-Chief of The Texas Tribune, was first inspired to launch the venture four years ago during the 2016 presidential election. At the time, she was on maternity leave with her daughter — and watching the tense race between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton play out.

“We were navigating all of these concerns around electability and likability that, to me, were just so obviously gendered and I thought to myself, we should have a news organization that is by women and for women,” she said.

While the idea quickly came to fruition, the launch of the new company during the middle of the pandemic was no easy task. Before officially launching this month, Rashaw said fundraising took a major hit and corporate underwriting stopped dead in its tracks due to the impact of the pandemic. Ultimately, she said that they felt like they had to take a “bigger risk,” emphasizing that women have had to bear the brunt of the coronavirus crisis.

“There was a moment in March and April where we basically stopped and said, ‘Are we going to be able to make this happen? Do we need to just stop, hold off, wait a year, see if we can ride this out?’ But the moment felt too critical for women.”

It’s true — the economic shock of the pandemic has hit women particularly hard. In April alone, women accounted for 55 percent of the job losses. And, though the U.S. added 1.8 million jobs in July, women are still joining the jobless rolls at a higher rate than men. Per the July jobs report, women are losing their jobs at 10.5 percent compared to 9.4 percent of men. There’s also the added responsibility of caregiving, which continues to largely fall on women. This has been especially tricky for working mothers who have to watch their kids while balancing their jobs.

Ramshaw believes one of the silver linings of launching in the midst of a pandemic has been being able to confront these issues head-on. The company offers six months of fully paid family leave for all new parents and four months of fully paid caregiver leave so employees can spend time with a dying loved one or a sick relative. “I think we’re proving the case that you can provide these kinds of benefits and flexibility and opportunities and still do the highest caliber of work,” she said.

More broadly, Ramshaw said the ongoing pandemic that has forced many to work from home has also led to a whole new level of empathy among both men and women. “All people are starting to get a view of what we’re up against in our home lives right now,” she said.

This originally appeared on Medium.

‘New York Magazine’ Reporter Olivia Nuzzi Trailed 2020 Candidates in Iowa

“I was with Bernie Sanders on Sunday and he was making his way over to the Butter Cow…”

The Iowa caucus isn’t until February 2020, but politicians seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have already made an important campaign stop in the state this past week. Many of them attended the Iowa State Fair, where they spoke with voters and were photographed next to the event’s famous Butter Cow sculpture. New York magazine’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi has been reporting from the fairgrounds (and sharing some highlights on the magazine’s Instagram). We gave her a call in Iowa to hear about the experience.


Katie Couric: First of all, can you tell us why the Iowa State Fair is such an important event in the political world?

Olivia Nuzzi: Iowa is the first caucus state, which means it is the first place where voting takes place in America in a presidential election. So Iowa has had a super outsized influence on our presidential politics for a long time because of that, and candidates tend to spend a lot of time here in the couple of years leading up to an election. If you’re thinking of running, you come to Iowa and you drive across the state and meet with voters.

The State Fair takes place the summer before the February caucuses, and everyone is here. The Des Moines Register has an event called the Political Soapbox, and they have candidates get up on stage, speak for a few minutes and answer some questions. Otherwise it’s a bunch of media and candidates and their staff running around the state fair.

What’s it like behind the scenes with the candidates at the fair? Is there the same hectic energy and urgency you’d see at any other political event?

It’s very hectic. I didn’t realize, even though I obviously cover events that are similar, how you would see a photo of Rick Perry or Michele Bachman eating a corn dog, and it looks like this peaceful, wholesome thing where they’re just talking to voters. But what’s surrounding them is just a mass of cameras and reporters, and it’s moving really quickly. It’s really crowded, and it’s really hot.

I was with Bernie Sanders on Sunday and he was making his way over to the Butter Cow. When you look at the photos of him with the Butter Cow, it doesn’t convey the absolute mayhem surrounding that moment. I was in that room, but there were so many people that I couldn’t even see the Butter Cow and I couldn’t see Bernie taking a photo in front of it. It’s just very, very hectic and cramped.

What were some of the highlights for you?

I’m working on a story about a particular candidate so I was not at the fair itself the entire time I’ve been here. I was only at the fair two different days so far. But Iowa is such a big state. So a lot of the time when you’re covering a candidate here, primarily you’re just driving. The day before yesterday I drove for five hours total. It’s just a lot of time in a car going from Point A to Point B, showing up to watch a candidate speak somewhere for 10 minutes and then getting back into your car to drive to another town where the candidate speaks for another 10 minutes.

It always surprises me that one innocuous gaffe that you didn’t think was a big deal or somebody misspoke in some way or one comment that you didn’t even hear because you’re in a scrum and it’s too crowded and one person got it on their mic, that becomes the news of the day. It’s pretty much always surprising to me. I don’t know if that’s the highlight or the lowlight, but it’s just something I’ve noticed.

What moments do you think will stick with Iowa caucus voters moving forward?

The caucus this year is the first week of February, so it’s a ways off. I didn’t see every single candidate that came to the state fair, but anecdotally I’ve heard that Warren had one of the biggest crowds and Bernie had another huge crowd, but Biden supporters felt the strongest.

I don’t know if anything in particular that happened here is going to make a difference come February with voting. First of all, you don’t have to win in Iowa to win the nomination. Ted Cruz won the Iowa caucus in 2016 and obviously we know how that one shook out. So it’s not necessary to win here if you want to be the nominee; it’s just necessary to perform well here.

You were following one particular candidate, but were you also hearing anything from Iowans on the ground in particular?

Iowa voters, like New Hampshire voters, are notorious for holding out until the last possible moment to decide who they’re going to vote for — because they get to see all the candidates and meet all the candidates and talk to them. They get special treatment in a way that most American voters don’t, and they know how powerful their votes are. So they’re very savvy about that. But everyone kept saying that it’s been a bit different this time around because the candidates are not talking about local issues here the way that they have previously. You’re hearing a pretty nationally-focused stump speech from most of the candidates.

This interview has been edited and condensed.


This interview originally appeared on Medium.com