INDEPENDENT LENS announces the premiere of “Breaking the News,” the critically acclaimed and crowd-pleasing documentary by Heather Courtney (“Where Soldiers Come From”), Princess A. Hairston (“Ladies women and LGBTQ+ journalists launch a digital news startup seeking to buck the white-male status quo of U.S. newsrooms.
“Breaking the News” will premiere on INDEPENDENT LENS on Presidents Day, February 19, at 10 p.m. ET (check local listings). The film will be available to stream on the PBS App and accessible via PBS’s flagship YouTube channel.
I was surprised at how interesting this film was. What struck me the most about these women was their open-mindedness, intelligence, and humility. They started out wanting to produce news from a perspective that was not being represented in the industry, mainly that of women and minorities. They came to understand that even their thoughts and ideas were shaped solely by their personal experiences and lacked the broader perspective necessary to truly understand others. This realization propelled their personal growth, allowing them to evolve into individuals capable of empathizing with diverse viewpoints.
This documentary captures the courage exhibited by these women as they navigate through some of the most significant events of our time. From the global pandemic to the election of President Biden, and even the overturning of Roe v Wade, the characters find themselves amid historic moments. Through their eyes, we witness the impact of these events on everyday people, providing a unique and thought-provoking perspective.
One of the film’s standout qualities is its ability to portray news and events with thoughtfulness and accuracy. It avoids sensationalism and instead focuses on presenting the perspectives of ordinary individuals. This approach not only adds to the authenticity of the film but also encourages viewers to reflect on the impact of these events on society as a whole.
Furthermore, “Breaking The News” tackles important social issues, particularly those affecting the LGBTQ+ community. The film sheds light on the various bills and measures aimed at oppressing this community, especially the transgender community, highlighting the significance of standing up against discrimination and advocating for equal rights. By incorporating these themes, the film serves as a powerful tool for raising awareness.
Overall, “Breaking The News” is an entertaining and important film that left a lasting impression on me. Its ability to engage the audience while addressing significant social issues is commendable. The growth and transformation of each of these individuals serve as a reminder of the importance of self-reflection and open-mindedness in our own lives. I highly recommend watching this film, as it offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on the world we live in.
“Breaking the News” follows the launch of The 19th*, a news startup that seeks to change the white, male-dominated news industry, asking who’s been omitted from mainstream coverage and how to include them. Bringing the viewer right into the newsroom during tense moments as the startup launches in a pandemic amid rising social unrest, the film provides an inside view of what it takes to challenge the status quo and break the mold in American media. Shot over three years, the film documents the honest discussions at The 19th* around race and gender equity, revealing that change doesn’t come easy, and showcases how they confront these challenges both as a workplace and in their journalism. But this film is about more than a newsroom; it’s about America in flux and the voices often left out of the American story.
“For far too long, white men have dictated which stories make the news and which voices are included. The 19th* is writing a new history by reporting the news through the lens of those forgotten voices, and showcasing that bringing lived experiences and diverse perspectives to the news industry is crucial, even if it is not an easy venture,” said co-directors Heather Courtney, Princess A. Hairston, and Chelsea Hernandez. “As the story developed—from the pandemic to the watershed coverage of the killing of Breonna Taylor to the 2020 election—we were continually inspired by The 19th*’s perseverance and openness, and we hope those who watch the film will be inspired too, to have open discussions, and make a change.”
“It’s one thing to talk about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion; it’s another thing to take the actions necessary to build a diverse team and true equity. We hope The 19th* can be a model for other newsrooms, and workplaces in general, to not be afraid to make change, and to not be afraid to mess up sometimes during the journey.”
With reporters spread across the country, The 19th* co-Founders Emily Ramshaw and Amanda Zamora and their team cover national politics and policy from the lens of gender and race. Philadelphia-based editor-at-large Errin Haines covers politics and often breaks major stories, including the first national story on the killing of Breonna Taylor. Latina reporter Chabeli Carrazana is based in Florida and reports on gender and the economy. Kate Sosin leads coverage of LGBTQ+ stories, including the increase of anti-trans bills being passed by states all over the country.
Despite best intentions, The 19th* struggles with its blind spots, as illustrated by Sosin who identifies as nonbinary and pushes for wider gender inclusion within the newsroom. They’re often frustrated by the lack of inclusive coverage and language being used at The 19th*, at times feeling burnt out by the additional labor of educating their colleagues. “Breaking the News” highlights these tough conversations, as well as those around racial inclusivity throughout rising tensions in 2020 and beyond, showing how they reshaped the organizational culture and editorial direction.
“Breaking the News” illustrates the importance of independent journalism in a functioning democracy by showing how and who decides what stories become the news,” said Lois Vossen, INDEPENDENT LENS executive producer. “The 19th* features reporting by women and LGBTQ+ journalists in their effort to disrupt homogenization inside newsrooms. With that same spirit of disruption, filmmakers Heather, Princess, and Chelsea document how this startup became a provider of news to the rest of the industry—an industry that is struggling with cutbacks and an increased cynicism from readers as they question where the news comes from.”
“Breaking the News” received Open Call funding from ITVS.
Visit the INDEPENDENT LENS website to learn more about the film.
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INDEPENDENT LENS is an Emmy® Award-winning PBS documentary series. With founding executive producer Lois Vossen, the series has been honored with 10 Academy Award nominations and features documentaries united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of independent filmmakers. Presented by ITVS, INDEPENDENT LENS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Acton Family Giving, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts. Stream anytime on the PBS app. For more visit pbs.org/independentlens
Independent Television Services (ITVS) is the largest co-producer of independent documentaries in the United States. For more than 30 years, the San Francisco nonprofit has funded and partnered with documentary filmmakers to produce and distribute untold stories. ITVS incubates and co-produces these award-winning titles and premieres them on our Emmy Award-winning PBS series, INDEPENDENT LENS. ITVS titles appear on PBS, WORLD, and NETA, and can be streamed on various digital platforms including the PBS App. ITVS is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Acton Family Giving, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation. For more information, visit itvs.org.