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THE GOLD STANDARDS of desired impact from investigative reporting have long involved the indictment of an elected official, a bill being signed into law, or a lawsuit filed on behalf of vulnerable citizens. But conversations with investigative journalism leaders across the country reveal a shift in how to document whether their work has made a difference.
Driven in part by the increased online presence of readers, top editors at for-profit and non-profit outlets and a Knight professor described placing a greater emphasis in recent years on less tangible markers like raising awareness and sparking widespread conversation.
It’s a journalism driven by the conviction that journalists working together can accomplish far more than what they could do on their own. The Panama Papers, for instance, involved close to 400 journalists, many of them working in tiny newsrooms. “We achieve much greater impact through collaboration,” Walker says. She and her colleagues also are motivated by a sense of accountability to their readers, many of whom are working people sending donations of as little as $3 to the organization.
He pointed to The Washington Post’s revelations about former national security adviser Michael Flynn that led to Flynn’s resignation. “I guess I think investigative reporting still has impact in Washington and all over the place,” he says.
“A lot of people are getting interested in funding journalism who haven’t funded journalism in the past,” she says. “They want to make a difference.