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‘Breaking the News’ emphasizes importance of diversity in journalism

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Collegian | Trin Bonner

The film “Breaking the News” was screened in the Lory Student Center Monday, Oct. 23, as one of the events at Colorado State University’s Symposium for Inclusive Excellence. 

The film featured the process of starting and growing The 19th*, a news startup that began in 2020 with journalists Emily Ramshaw, Amanda Zamora and Errin Haines and their mission to create a more inclusive newsroom. 

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On the news channel’s website, The 19th* describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting on gender, politics and policy.” 

The name of The 19th* is representative of the 19th Amendment, which made voting an unalienable right for many. However, millions of Black women and women of color were still excluded from this, hence the asterisk in the title of The 19th*.

At the end of the film, there was a discussion panel featuring Chelsea Hernansez, “Breaking the News” co-director; Alexandra Smith, audience director and chief product officer with The 19th*; and Tori Omega Arthur, moderator and associate professor in the journalism department at CSU.

Hernandez said she got involved with The 19th* when she saw what Ramshaw was doing in early 2020 through social media.

“(I) was following her on Twitter and saw that she was leaving the Texas Tribune to start something new,” Hernandez said. “And I actually think I had tweeted at her to be like, ‘If you start up a video team, I’d love to apply!’ So I was just keeping track of what she was doing, and then Heather, one of the directors — it was her idea, and she connected with Emily and started filming in March 2020, … then brought me on board in the fall of 2020.” 

In terms of how Smith came to join The 19th*, she explained what caught her attention was that, unlike other newsrooms, the organization promised representation. 

When I saw that The 19th* launched, I very much saw myself in that community right away because it was centering the stories of women and other marginalized people who very much didn’t have a voice in especially national, political media,” Smith said.

One of the main topics of discussion was the first scene of the film, which showed Ramshaw on a Zoom business call with a man. Ramshaw was attempting to present her ideas for The 19th* only for the man to repeatedly interrupt her. 

“We just thought it was the perfect sort of setup to get into the story and showcase the reason Emily wanted to start this venture, and I think she even said, when she first saw the cut, ‘That is my everyday reality,’” Hernandez said.

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Something unique about “Breaking the News” is that not only is it about journalists in the fight for diversity in newsrooms, but it was also created by people who have experienced those issues firsthand. 

For instance, the film had three female directors of different ethnicities — Latina, white and Black — as well as an Asian-American female producer and an executive producing team from various gender and racial backgrounds. 

“I mean, we had our challenges and our own understanding of each other’s lived experiences, so I do feel like at times it was like art imitating life or life imitating art,” Hernandez said. “But it created a better story because we could bring about our perspectives, and those may have been lost in the storytelling if we hadn’t had this big team.”

Smith explained that as a new startup, it’s easy to “run-run-run” all of the time, and so something The 19th* has been really working on is change of pace. 

“We’ve been able to slow down, be a little more intentional, take up space and take space for ourselves as teams and in building relationships with one another and the communities we aim to serve,” Smith said. “It results in much more powerful storytelling, and it results in a much stronger internal culture. So very much life imitating art, art imitating life — journalism wrapped up somewhere in all of that.”

With 2024 right around the corner, The 19th* is currently discussing their new goals.

“Emily and Amanda originally launched The 19th* with a five-year vision, and we’ve achieved almost everything that they’ve set out in that vision, and it’s time for us to create a new one,” Smith said. 

For those wanting to watch “Breaking The News,” it will be on PBS Feb. 19, and more information can be found at breakingthenewsfilm.com

Reach McKenna Van Voris at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @mckenna_vv.

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About the Contributor
Trin Bonner
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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