Measuring the impact of journalism
There has been a lot written and researched on the impact of communications – but little thought on how to measure the impact of journalism – how can the media measure the impact of their work?
Two recent posts explore this issue:
Ethan Zuckerman writes about how to measure the civic impact of journalism and one conclusion is:
“A possible metric – the efficacy of a story in connecting people to community organizations, volunteering opportunities, and other forms of civic engagement.”
He goes on to conclude:
“If we measure only how many people view, like or tweet, but not how many people learn more, act or engage, we run the risk of serving only the market and forsaking our civic responsibilities, whether we’re editing a newspaper or writing a blog.”
Jonathan Stray writes about the metrics of journalism and says:
“The first challenge may be a shift in thinking, as measuring the effect of journalism is a radical idea. The dominant professional ethos has often been uncomfortable with the idea of having any effect at all, fearing “advocacy” or “activism.” While it’s sometimes relevant to ask about the political choices in an act of journalism, the idea of complete neutrality is a blatant contradiction if journalism is important to democracy. Then there is the assumption, long invisible, that news organizations have done their job when a story is published. That stops far short of the user, and confuses output with effect.”
Both posts make interesting reaading and propose useful ideas. Both posts come to similar conclusions: The need to go beyond output metrics and look at the impact of journalism on events, individuals and policies. There are also some interesting parallels that can be seen with advocacy evaluation - food for thought!