New media outlet covering the intersection of women and politics launches as 2020 election kicks off

Home News Advancing Equity for Women and Girls New media outlet covering the intersection of women and politics launches as...
Home News Advancing Equity for Women and Girls New media outlet covering the intersection of women and politics launches as...
Jan. 27, 2020
Members of the 19th, a new women’s publication launching Monday. Clockwise from top left, Amanda Zamora, Andrea Valdez, Emily Ramshaw, Johanna Derlega and Errin Haines. (Laura Skelding for The 19th)Members of the 19th, a new women’s publication launching Monday. Clockwise from top left, Amanda Zamora, Andrea Valdez, Emily Ramshaw, Johanna Derlega and Errin Haines. (Laura Skelding for The 19th)

The idea of creating a new media outlet focused on women came to Emily Ramshaw four years ago during her maternity leave. “But I was covered in spit-up and baby diapers, and I knew it was the wrong time,” she recalled.

Then came the election of President Trump, the Women’s March, the start of the #MeToo movement. “It seems like there was a niche nonprofit newsroom for almost everything, and I wondered to myself why no one had created one at the intersection of women and politics,” Ramshaw said. She kept seeing a need.

She continued in her role as editor in chief of the Texas Tribune but could not get the idea out of her head. In March last year, she sat down with Amanda Zamora, the Tribune’s chief audience officer and a veteran of the investigative nonprofit ProPublica, and presented her idea.

“You could tell she was completely taken with this idea of a site that looked at the impact of politics and policy on women,” Zamora said. “Once she is set on something, you have no doubt that she’s going to make it happen, and I knew it was something I wanted to participate in.”

The two were soon holding meetings with advisers and funders, pitching them on their vision and honing it as they went.

On Monday, Ramshaw and Zamora are launching the 19th, the organization that grew out of all those meetings, with nearly $5 million in the bank from funders such as Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Kathryn Murdoch, a climate change activist and philanthropist.

“This isn’t the day’s news but pink. This is unique, original coverage about the roles of gender in politics and policy,” said Ramshaw, who is CEO of the nonprofit. “We are not doing turn-of-the-screw reporting, but rather what that turn of the screw means for different parts of the women’s electorate.”

The 19th logo. (The 19th)
The 19th logo. (The 19th)

The name derives from the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which in practice granted white women the right to vote, and whose 100th anniversary is this summer. Given that the goal of the site is to “elevate the voices of women who are underrepresented in the American media, be it women of color, women living off the coasts, and poor women,” Ramshaw said, they added an asterisk to their logo.

The organization is launching with a single reporter in the field, Errin Haines, who previously covered race and ethnicity for the Associated Press. She will cover the 2020 race. A bare-bones site is launching Monday. Until 19thnews.org is fully built later this year, the 19th’s articles will publish on The Washington Post’s website.

Newmark was among the first donors and made a $500,000 gift. “We need a news outlet about gender politics that does a lot of fact-checking with absolutely no mansplaining,” he said in an interview.

Kathryn Murdoch, the wife of Rupert Murdoch’s younger son, James, pledged $1 million to the venture. Convinced by polling showing women had vastly different views from men on issues such as climate change and Trump, Murdoch saw the relevance of Ramshaw’s idea.

“You need to have a very healthy media ecosystem in order to support a functioning democracy, and I look at everything we do as how do we find the actual crux of some of the problems rather than putting Band-Aids on them after they develop,” Murdoch said.

When asked how the 19th was different from the news outlets her family owns, which include Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, she simply said the 19th and the foundation she and her husband operate are reflective of her values.

She and her husband were recently critical of the way Murdoch media properties have covered the Australian wildfires. In an interview with The Post, she shied away from commenting about Fox News or other Murdoch outlets. “This is what I do, and I’m happy to be taken to task on any of it, but that is all I control.”

“A few years ago I might have said, ‘No, no [to Ramshaw], things are gradually changing and getting better, and we’ll get there,’ ” Murdoch said. But the rejection of a female candidate in the 2016 election was a wake-up call: “It was a turning point to realize that things don’t just naturally get better over time, you have to actively participate and make them get better, and there’s always a risk of backsliding.”

Ramshaw is not accepting anonymous donations to the site and will maintain a list of funders on the site in an effort to be as transparent as possible about who is supporting the journalism at the 19th.

On launch day, the organization, which has hired an editor in chief, will post 17 jobs; nine in the newsroom including beats covering women in Congress, in the economy, statehouses and several others. They are hiring to fill positions to cover specific demographics that make up the female electorate, including black and Latina women. The site will have no opinion or editorial section.

And the publication is not averse to hiring men — its CFO is male.