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For readers, for community, for the underdog.
At The 19th, the intent and impact of our journalism has not gone without thought even as 2023 flew by. We asked our reporters to reflect on the importance of journalism, their most impactful stories and to reflect on one simple question: Why do you write? The work of journalists will be more important than ever with the 2024 election looming. Here’s why The 19th’s reporters believe their work is central to democracy.
“I write for readers.”
– Jennifer Gerson, reporter
I love being a reporter and being charged with showcasing complexity, nuance and facts all in the same breath. I think so often we forget that we can acknowledge both the diversity of different experiences and perspectives that might lead different people to reach different conclusions — but this never needs to preclude our obligation to facts.
I’m really proud of the work I did around United States v. Rahimi, a case argued before the Supreme Court in November examining whether it is constitutional to disarm those with active domestic violence restraining orders against them. Survivors of domestic violence and their experiences in navigating systems in pursuit of safety for themselves and their families are too often an invisible community, and highlighting the complexity and nuances of these experiences and what they mean within the gun violence epidemic in America was deeply meaningful work. This case touched on so many things that are complicated and under-discussed.
- More From Jennifer:
“I write for my son.”
– Chabeli Carrazana, economy reporter
In 2021, I experienced two miscarriages that absolutely rocked the foundation of my life. At the time, it was also one of the most isolating experiences I had ever felt. My 19th colleague Shefali Luthra wrote a story at the end of this year about pregnancy loss that took all of those emotions out from the shadows and helped me find connection in someone else’s story. In this sense, journalism helped ease some of my own grief by realizing I shared it with others.
I came back from parental leave at the end of January with newfound clarity. Having a child restructured my priorities in a way that really made it easier for me to see where I wanted to dedicate my time and how. I am so proud of the child care stories I worked on this year, especially my story on waitlists and on what it means when a child care center closes in a small town.
The 19th is the place where I have been given the space and support to write the best stories of my career and the work that I am most proud of. The kinds of stories I can’t get out of my head, that I’m excited to come into work and write. And I do all of that because I feel the importance of what we are doing here — for our readers, for journalism, for our democracy. That’s how journalism should feel, and I don’t want our country to lose that.
- More from Chabeli:
“I write for community.”
– Kate Sosin, LGBTQ+ reporter
I am really interested in the complexities of people, in holding the powerful accountable and celebrating the many ways we are all human. For me, this story on intersex surgery in children highlighted the ways that bills targeting trans kids seek to enforce gender conformity, rather than protecting kids, as they often purport to do. It also brought intersex people, who are critical to the conversation about health and bodily autonomy, into the forefront.
The longer I am in journalism, the more I believe in it. It has bolstered my self-confidence as a transgender person and just as a person trying to make it through the day with dignity. I think our stories allow us to share space, to expand as people, to do better for each other and to enjoy a world that is sometimes really harsh.
- More From Kate:
“I write for Black women.”
– Errin Haines, editor at large
This year, I launched my newsletter, The Amendment, as an evolution of the journalism I have wanted to bring to The 19th. As I look back at 2023, I am proud of the body of work I have built around conversations with and about the people who are working to expand democracy, leadership, equality and representation — and what it means when we do not.
A healthy democracy and a healthy press are mutually dependent. At its best, journalism reflects who and where we are as a country, and does the constant work of bringing more voices into our electorate. I stay in the fight because I am committed to work that meets this moment, which feels more urgent than it has at any point in my career.
Journalism remains a way for us to respond to what is happening in our communities. It is a privilege in a country where many people do not feel they have power to respond. When I consume work that is leaving behind the most honest and accurate record of who we are, when I read work about the people who are doing good in our democracy — and not obstructing a freer, fairer, more equal society — I am hopeful for my profession and for my country.
“I write to empower our readers.”
– Grace Panetta, political reporter
Journalism is crucial to spotlight injustice, add complexity and nuance to our understanding of the world around us, and challenge our assumptions. At The 19th, that means interrogating the intersections of people’s lived experiences and demonstrating the very real impacts of policy on people while also highlighting those who are working to create change.
My colleague Mel Leonor Barclay and I recently published an investigation into troubles and disarray at Emerge, the largest organization training and recruiting Democratic women to run for office. Emerge has recently had a painful split with one of its most successful state-based chapters and halted local, on-the-ground training in two states in the deep South. It’s a story that strikes at the intersection of gender, power and the complicated task of increasing representation in politics.
- More From Grace:
“I write for the underdog.”
– Nadra Nittle, education reporter
Earlier this year, Florida education officials came up with a list of enslaved people they argued had purportedly benefited from slavery. I wrote an article about the only enslaved women on the list, while other outlets focused solely on the men. Doing so gave me a chance to introduce many people to Elizabeth Keckley, a dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln, and Betsey Stockton, an educator. The realities disprove the notion that enslavement was somehow beneficial to them.
The piece turned out to be one of my most read articles of the year and led one of the scholars I interviewed to write a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his research on Stockton, educating even more people about a topic some officials would rather the public remain ignorant of.
Journalism can be informative and hold people in power accountable. Being a journalist has given me the opportunity to do both. For my beat, in particular, journalism is important because it is exposing the not-so-hidden agendas that some lawmakers have for the nation’s schools. Public education has been under attack during my tenure at The 19th, and I’ve seized the opportunity to shine a light on how censorship, curriculum oversight bills, so-called parents’ rights and extremist school boards are affecting education policy.
- More From Nadra:
“I write for the people of the future.”
– Jasmine Mithani, data visuals reporter
For Disability Pride Month, I wrote a story about disability doulas, the people who support someone newly disabled as they adjust to a new reality. When researching the story, I found only a few articles strewn about. When the story published, I got an immense amount of feedback from readers who learned about the practice and recognized an unmet need. It was important for me to include a solutions angle in the story to make the information actionable for disabled people, and I’m glad that sharing this practice of communal care resonated with so many.
I feel very strongly that I could not do the work that I do at The 19th anywhere else. I stay at The 19th because I get to write for women of color and queer people, and we get to write about ourselves. Journalism is how I stay in touch with my community and where I go to look for answers. Journalism helps me make sense of the world and offers me stories and perspectives I would have never come across otherwise. The greatest impact that journalism has had on me is the opportunity to be of service to my communities. I get to speak to experts on all sorts of topics and have deep conversations with people all over the country — my work keeps me connected to humanity, empathy and the power of change.
- More From Jasmine:
“I write for LGBTQ+ people who feel alone.”
– Orion Rummler, LGBTQ+ reporter
We need witnesses, recorders and people who are: keeping score; looking to history; translating political and legal jargon; understanding the direct impact; and finding voices who can explain in their own words, the best words, what’s happening to them. There are a lot of options for someone to share their own story, including posting it themselves online, and sometimes that’s the best route. Other times, the best route is giving it to someone who can help you put it in a greater context, so that more people will see it and know they’re not alone. That’s why I’m still in this industry and at The 19th, because I believe we’re the best at sharing those stories.
My favorite stories are always the features and profiles that bring a level of emotional depth that isn’t possible in other stories. For example, my exploration into grief after the AIDS crisis — and how that grief was reflected in “The Last of Us” by a survivor of that time — is a personal favorite of mine, especially since it actually makes me cry when I reread it! Journalism has given me the tools to translate bewilderment, fear and sorrow into words and information that becomes action and connections. Without that, I’m not sure there’s a point to anything.
- More From Orion: