What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
The growth of nonprofit investigative journalism is challenging the way the field looks at impact. For-profit outlets have traditionally drawn a fine line between rigorous reporting and seeking specific outcomes. But new nonprofit outlets are not only trying to cause change, they’re trying to determine the best way to measure it.
You do the work, you ask the hard questions; that’s the job. Your goal can’t be a certain type of impact, at least if you’re the New York Times, the Washington Post or the [Chicago] Tribune.
New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet summarized the traditional position well when he said, “You do the work, you ask the hard questions; that’s the job. Your goal can’t be a certain type of impact, at least if you’re the New York Times, the Washington Post or the [Chicago] Tribune.” However, ProPublica’s mission statement commits it to “spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.” Its annual reports list the many change its stories produced.
CJR reports that this shift is “driven in part by the increased online presence of readers, top editors at for-profit and nonprofit outlets…described placing a greater emphasis in recent years on less tangible markers like raising awareness and sparking widespread conversation.”
When it comes to impact, journalists are divided on what explicit goals an investigative project should have, lest it wander into the territory of advocacy, which is often a negative word in journalism circles. But the marked challenges to truth and data today also bring greater awareness of the importance of investigative journalism to democracy.
Nancy Young is an independent writer and editor who works with nonprofit groups who work in and for Haiti
Cyndi Suarez is the Senior Editor at NPQ.