Depending on one’s personal experiences, level of exposure to new ideas, and willingness to engage with challenging information, The Establishment’s mission may appear superfluous — or it may instantly register as burningly critical and centuries overdue.
We, of course, fall into the latter camp.
Unlike Google or Facebook, we do not seek to imagine and create vast new technological realms. Nor, like Uber or Lyft, is our aim to “disrupt” long-entrenched logistical systems. We make no broad proclamations about producing a cutting-edge app, or chartering flights to space, or reimagining nutritional intake.
Our mission is, again, depending on your vantage point, comparatively straightforward. And yet, we think — wait for it — our work is as novel, fresh, and fundamentally radical as any to emerge from Silicon Valley — or anywhere else.
We believe that the media industry cannot aptly serve our diverse world when vast segments of the population are missing from the conversation; our aim, then, simply, is to provide a platform to anyone who’s been shut out of the conversation.
We’re offering space to everyone who’s been underrepresented or excluded from journalism, for anyone who’s been denied representation in the mainstream media; we’re leveling the playing field among those charged with the tremendous task of documenting and dissecting our world.
We are looking to construct, if you will, a new Establishment — one that encompasses and works for us all.
As my cofounder Katie Tandy wrote two years ago in our original business plan: “When so much of the population is systematically overlooked — financially, politically, and otherwise, when more than half of society is rendered less visible and audible — we are left with a very skewed notion of the human experience.
We are left with a collective narrative that is founded on an absence.”
And indeed, just as she wrote in 2015, the slice of humanity with a hand in shaping our world — through every medium imaginable — remains chillingly slender and uniform.
Those who produce the words, videos, and images we consume are shockingly homogenous for our increasingly diverse world. In the United States in 2017, “men receive 62% of byline and other credits in print, Internet, TV and wire news. Women receive 38%.” Moreover, “more than half of 2016’s women’s bylines are on lifestyle, health and education news,” belying women’s vastly diverse interests and expertise.
And even when the topic concerns, say, reproductive rights, women are still relegated to the periphery. “Women penned 37% of bylined news articles and opinion pieces about reproductive rights and related issues in the nation’s 12 most widely circulated newspapers and news wires” — while men authored 52%.
This is to say nothing of race, which is an even bleaker and more pressing issue. According to the American Society of News Editors’ 2016 Diversity Survey results, “minority journalists comprised 17% of the workforce in newsrooms that responded.”
And data on media representation and work by other identities — neurodivergent, disabled, trans, and nonbinary, as but a few examples — are so lamentable as not even to be on the radar of mainstream media participation surveys.
Put bluntly: the stories, experiences, and views we are depriving ourselves us within this system are as vast as the ills our society faces.
In a world — and mediasphere — that often reduces creators to their identities, we seek to broaden the scope of humanity that is offered the opportunity to create the content they most want and need to exist — and that affects much-needed change.
As one might expect from a company with such diverse aims, my brilliant and inimitable cofounders — Nikki Gloudeman and Katie Tandy — and I all hail from disparate backgrounds. And the forces that brought us together were tinged with the same systematic darkness that shapes the power structures of the world.
We first encountered each other and worked together as coeditors at a theoretically women-oriented website where, beholden to the whims of our male investor and CEO — a man with little interest in either media or authentically relaying the experiences of women — we were forced to acknowledge the limits of our editorial autonomy sans access to the company’s purse strings.
As we wrote, edited, and managed the site together for a year and a half, we discovered, time and again, the public’s desire for overlooked and untold stories; for meatiness, substance, and honesty in a realm still dominated by aggregated content, clickbait, and listicles; for the space to empathize, learn, and connect on a human level.
Ultimately, we recognized that to build such a space, we’d have to buck media and company-founding trends and do it ourselves. And so, in June 2015 — with the help of a brilliant female investor, Shauna Stark — The Establishment was born.
Since our first day, our aim has never been that of recreating the offensively-dubbed “pink ghetto” of “women’s interest” content. As a barbershop-singing journalist, a punk-rock band frontwoman and alt-weekly-writer veteran, and a sea-turtle-lover with a background in foreign policy, we’ve never subscribed to the notion that our gender should — or does — dictate the things we want to report on, create, and consume.
We seek political coverage of the Syrian conflict, sociocultural implications of cult suicides, and brilliant dissections of the raging societal debate on free speech. We want to relish in gorgeously-rendered personal essays about queerness, the search for the perfect penis, and finding one’s blackness, just as we seek photo essays about urban goat herders, documentaries about feminist clowns, investigative deep dives into emerging child abuse trends, and stories on the rise of the name “Kevin” in Estonia.
In short: We’re complex, curious citizens of the world and have always sought to build a multimedia site that reflects the multifaceted interests, views, and dreams that comprise a fully fleshed out human experience.
That said, we keenly understand, as three cis, white women, that — our various neurodivergence, histories of trauma, and mental health issues aside — we cannot and should not be gatekeepers for the mediamakers of the future.
In the immediate wake of the company’s genesis, we sought to round out our founding team with the views, skills, and incredible expertise of activist and writer Ijeoma Oluo, former producer and homelessness advocate Jessica Sutherland, and incisive journalist and author Ruchika Tulshyan. We remain deeply honored to have them aboard as we shake up the media landscape — and that we could add editors Jess Zimmerman and Maxine Builder to the roster.
Still, The Establishment as it currently exists — having published about 2,000 stories by 600 creators — represents but the very beginning of our journey. We look forward to broadening our burgeoning and benevolent empire into a wider and wider array of humanity — looping in women, men, and nonbinary individuals alike — as we grow and expand our capacity to tell the broadest spectrum of stories that we can.
With its diverse staff and uncanny overlap with our own mission, we couldn’t imagine better partners to help us raise the profile of The Establishment’s immeasurably talented creators — past, present, and future.
Especially in these dark and deeply uncertain political times, we believe fundamental change in media cannot be effected without marginalized people having a seat at the table.
Matter will aid us in constructing a profitable, mission-driven media company all predicated on building the largest, most equitable table possible.