Home Community and Culture Culturas Corner: Meet Abby Johnston

Culturas Corner: Meet Abby Johnston

Culturas Corner highlights individuals who make their community a better place through their work, business, volunteering or activism. At the beginning of August, The 19th* launched as a full news site. The publication is a new nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom with a mission to be a journalism source for all women, especially those who have been underserved in the media. Named after the 19th Amendment, this outlet works under the guidance of its asterisk, which is a reminder of all the people left out of the American democracy. Culturas had the opportunity to learn more from The 19th’s deputy editor, Abby Johnston. 

Hi Abby! We’re excited to learn more about The 19th. How did you guys get started and what makes you different from other newsrooms?

The idea for The 19th came about when our co-founder and CEO, Emily Ramshaw, was out on maternity leave with a baby girl at home. It was during the 2016 election, and there were a lot of conversations happening around likability and electability — the metrics that we really only hear discussed when women run for office.

For Emily, I think the hole in the landscape seemed so obvious: No one was reporting exclusively on gender, politics and policy. So I think she figured that someone else would Abby Johnstonhave a similar idea, particularly after the 2016 cycle. As time went on, it still hadn’t happened.

Fast forward four years, and here we are. We launched in the first week in August, and since then have posted dozens of stories to our site and hosted a virtual summit that included Meghan Markle, Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris — in fact, it was the first interview she did after being named Joe Biden’s running mate.

The 19th is different because we are putting our focus on stories that have been ignored for too long by mainstream media. Simply by putting gender at the center of our coverage, we are going to tell stories that other newsrooms are missing and represent people and viewpoints that have been overlooked.

Compared to the first wave feminists who fought for the right to vote, how is The 19th working to be more inclusive?

We certainly owe a lot to the suffragists, but we also recognize that their work securing women’s right to vote a century ago really only extended to white women. The asterisk in our name is a reminder that suffrage is still a work in progress. Black women were key to the suffrage movement, but they were shut out of the 19th Amendment. Hundreds of thousands of transgender people are at risk of being turned away from the polls each time they try and exercise their civic duty.

Our work is about achieving equity across gender. It’s not enough for white cisgender women to be empowered. We want that same empowerment for all women and gender diverse people. Our journalism is centered on the unfinished work.

What makes The 19th’s storytelling and reporting unique?

Newsrooms are predominantly run by white men, and most national news comes from the coasts. That’s been the case forever, and both of those factors greatly impact what stories are ultimately delivered to readers.

Beyond our focus, which is obviously different than many other organizations, we have a team that is spread across the United States that comes from a range of newsroom backgrounds that feels reflective of the audience we want to serve. That shows in our storytelling.

And, again, our focus is unique. Making the space to tell politics and policy stories through a lens of gender means that our ideas will be different, our approach to the news of the day will be different.

What future do you envision for The 19th?

I want to help create a place for readers who have felt shut out or not represented in media so they can come and see themselves reflected. I want to be a publication readers can trust — not just that they know our reporting is accurate, but that they can come to us and know that we have sought out the less obvious story, the ones that have been left untold. We want to serve communities that have long been underserved by journalism.

At Culturas, we love learning about people’s cultural memories. What impact do you hope to have on those attending your virtual summit?

I hope that the thousands of people who saw our summit will be able to look back and say that THAT was the moment that put The 19th on the map for them. I am still so floored by the response to that week of programming. I hope that the viewers had a moment they can turn to years down the road and think, “That’s when I knew this was going to be a big deal.”

Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Know someone who should be featured on Culturas Corner? Nominate them here.

Haley Bosselman
Haley Bosselman is the editor-in-chief of Culturas. She grew up in Orange County and moved to Los Angeles after earning her bachelor's degree in journalism from Arizona State University. In May 2020, Haley completed the Master of Science in journalism program at the University of Southern California. She's written a lot about music, but is geared toward any culture-related storytelling.
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