How two young journalists are highlighting longform journalism written by women

Kaylen Ralph and Joanna Demkiewicz want to help change the under-representation of women in longform journalism.

The two young journalists have created an online and print magazine called The Riveter, which highlights longform pieces and narratives written by women. They crowdfunded the project through a site called Indiegogo and raised $2,000.

A little over a week ago, they published the first print issue of The Riveter. The magazine includes four longform pieces — which are also published on The Riveter’s website — as well as some bonus content, including a photo essay by freelance photographer Alex Potter, who’s based in Yemen; book reviews; an interview with Texas Monthly Executive Editor Pamela Colloff; a book excerpt from Holly Grigg-Spall; and “a Not All-Inclusive History Timeline of Women in Journalism (think black feminist Gertrude Mossell in the late 1800s and Gloria Steinem in the 1970s)” as The Riveter’s site describes it.

I talked with Ralph and Demkiewicz via email to find out more about the project and what they hope to accomplish.

How did the idea for The Riveter come about?

Ralph (left) and Demkiewicz. Photo by Sally French.

The Riveter has been a long time coming. After not one woman writer was nominated for a major writing category in the 2012 American Society of Magazine Editors’ National Magazine Awards, we had the idea of starting a magazine that would provide a platform in which women could actually publish the kind of work that would be considered for such a prestigious award.

We were both juniors at the University of Missouri at the time, but we brainstormed ideas throughout that spring semester before we left to study abroad. Then in March of this year, our university sponsored a panel of writers who were all featured in Mike Sager and Walt Harrington’s new book, “Next Wave: America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.”

All of the writers on the panel were men and only three of the writers featured in the anthology were women. This did not go unnoticed by the women in the room and there was much discussion over the future of women in longform. Joanna and I decided that day that it was time to pick our project back up, and the following week we bought the domain name.

We’re also collaborating with Mike Sager on an anthology of female longform journalists which will be released early next year. We are looking for reader-submitted ideas of which journalists to include.

Why do you think The Riveter is an important project?

The Riveter is an important project because women’s voices are important. They have to be represented in the important genre that is longform. Both of us are recent graduates of the Missouri School of Journalism, and over the last few months we’ve both wondered, “Where are the spaces for us to exist after graduation?”

Because of our magazine writing education, we wondered, and still wonder, where women writers can go to write longform journalism pieces and narratives that aren’t restricted to beauty, fashion, dating, etc. There’s more to women’s experiences as individuals, as writers, and as a collective than those narrow categories allow. We knew our classmates and colleagues felt similarly. As we looked around in our journalism classes and talked to our friends, it seemed that for every one man, there were 10 women. And we were two of them.

What’s the goal of the project?

The goal of The Riveter, quite simply, is to create a space for women to publish work about whatever interests them. The submissions we’ve gotten so far show that there is no limitation to the subject matter that women writers are passionate about, and we want to bring that important work to the forefront.

We also feel very strongly that writers should be paid for their work. Our goal is to become a brand that can pay writers for the work we accept for publication and we are well on our way to being able to do just that.

Why the emphasis on longform? 

Around the same time that we attended the panel at MU, VIDA’s yearly “The Count” was released. This keeps track of “the rates of publication between women and men in many of our writing world’s most respected literary outlets.” 2012′s numbers were more than disappointing, and it was the final push we needed to create this space.

For example, in 2012:

  • Harper’s had 76 bylines by men and 17 by women.
  • The Atlantic had 176 bylines by men and 47 by women.
  • The New Yorker had 445 bylines by men and 160 by women.

We are both longform junkies, because we believe in the breadth of creativity, narrative, investigation, research, etc. allowed with this particular kind of storytelling. The fact that the VIDA numbers show most longform authors were men in 2012 (and in 2011 and 2010) proves a disconnect when we imagine the capabilities of women as storytellers. Longform is a vital form of communication; we want to make room for the female storytellers who communicate this way.

What will the money from your Indiegogo fundraising effort go toward?

We are budgeting our Indiegogo funds to cover moderate compensation for writers as well as produce the digital and print version of the product that will hopefully help us become self-sustaining. The fundraising is the jump start we need. One of the things we’re most excited about is The Riveter’s multi-platform approach.

Talk a little bit more about the multi-platform approach. 

We’ve recently hired five columnists to ensure that our online content is updated regularly with distinct voices that readers can come to expect. Our first print issue, which came out in July, is available in our Storeenvy marketplace. We have a digital edition for tablet use, also. We’ve gotten a lot of help from Theresa Berens (our designer) and Samuel Ott (our Web developer). The Riveter would not be what it is without their help.

You can email Ralph and Demkiewicz submissions, ideas and questions at therivetermagazine@gmail.com.

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  • http://justicehustler.wordpress.com/ anymajordude

    Interesting project! I was actually a Master’s student at the Missouri School of Journalism in the late 00′s and concentrated on magazine writing… and I have since gone into social work, due in some part to the terrible prospect for long form journalists these days.

    Frankly, I think it’s a bit disingenuous (or at least, deluded) of the school to continue offering “magazine writing” as a concentration without serious web journalism training in the mix as well, but I guess that’s akin to saying that schools shouldn’t offer English lit PhDs either since the job prospects are so dim in that field, too. And I don’t know if Mizzou has since improved its curriculum.

    All of which is to say…. great job to these young women for being resourceful enough to make lemons out of lemonade!