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Decoding Media Impact: Insights, Advice & Recommendations

January 23, 2020

This report provides an examination of the current state of the field of media impact assessment, which Media Impact Funders (MIF) has been tracking for seven years. It is meant to serve as a practical resource for funders who want to understand where to start. Informed by feedback from our network, it represents a synthesis of the past seven years of work we've done in the impact space, and includes examples of successful media impact evaluation, tools and frameworks for assessment, and the challenges of defining and measuring impact in a rapidly-shifting media landscape.Our years of research have led us to four key insights, and this report includes a deep dive into each of them, as well as companion guest essays from leaders in the field. We hope you will use this guide to inform your own practice, and to continue this critical conversation.

The New Advertisers: How Foundation Funding Impacts Journalism

December 17, 2019

Many journalism stakeholders have begun looking to philanthropic foundations to help newsrooms find economic sustainability. The rapidly expanding role of foundations as a revenue source for news publishers raises an important question: How do foundations exercise their influence over the newsrooms they fund? Using the hierarchy of influence model, this study utilizes more than 40 interviews with journalists at digitally native nonprofit news organizations and employees from foundations that fund nonprofit journalism to better understand the impact of foundation funding on journalistic practice. Drawing on previous scholarship exploring extra-media influence on the news industry, we argue that the impact of foundations on journalism parallels that of advertisers throughout the 20th century—with one important distinction: Journalism practitioners and researchers have long forbidden the influence from advertisers on editorial decisions, seeing the blurring of the two as inherently unethical. Outside funding from foundations, on the other hand, is often premised on editorial influence, complicating efforts by journalists to maintain the firewall between news revenue and production.

Young Adults' News Behaviors and Beliefs

July 9, 2019

This report examines trust in media, showing that many young adults use news media to make decisions on policies and voting. It reveals that a majority of young adults are concerned about the impact of news on democracy and unity in the country, expressing that news organizations might divide and polarize citizens. Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the report analyzes the findings of a survey of 1,660 adults between the ages of 18 and 34. It also surveyed large samples of African American and Hispanic participants to explore beliefs and behaviors across races and ethnicities. The study shows that young people believe some news sources are actively hurting democracy and corroding national unity. Sixty-four percent of young adults say their least-liked news source hurts democracy and 73 percent say their least-liked news source divides the country. Only 47 percent say their favorite news source helps unite it. When comparing partisan attitudes, 51 percent of Democrats say their favorite source unites the public, while 42 percent of Republicans say the same. 

Social Media Monitoring During Elections: Cases and Best Practice to Inform Electoral Observation Missions

June 1, 2019

Concern over online interference in elections is now widespread—from the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the pernicious effects messaging apps have had in elections in Kenya or Brazil. Yet regulatory and monitoring efforts have lagged behind in addressing the challenges of how public opinion can be manipulated online, and its impact on elections. The phenomenon of online electoral interference is global. It affects established democracies, countries in transition, and places where freedom of expression and access to information are tightly controlled.But fundamental questions of what should be legal and illegal in digital political communication have yet to be answered in order to extend the rule of electoral law from the offline to the online. Answering these questions would help determine the right scope for online election observation, too. This scoping report explains why social media is one of the elements of a democratic, rule of law–based state that observer groups should monitor. It aggregates experience from diverse civil society and nongovernmental initiatives that are innovating in this field, and sets out questions to guide the development of new mandates for election observers. The internet and new digital tools are profoundly reshaping political communication and campaigning. But an independent and authoritative assessment of the impact of these effects is wanting. Election observation organizations need to adapt their mandate and methodology in order to remain relevant and protect the integrity of democratic processes.

Global Media Philanthropy: What Funders Need to Know About Data, Trends and Pressing Issues Facing the Field

March 28, 2019

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Media Impact Funders has been researching trends, challenges and opportunities for global media funding. The research in this report draws on a variety of sources: data from the media data map through 2015, results from a survey of leading organizations engaged in funding media-related projects around the world, analyses of existing literature and reports, and insights offered by experts across a range of media funding issues.

The State of Social Impact Entertainment

February 1, 2019

Social impact entertainment (SIE) is changing the world. Our landmark report explores this emerging field through the views and insight of the artists and industry experts who know it best.

Engaged Journalism: Practices for Building Trust, Generating Revenue, and Fostering Civic Engagement

January 31, 2019

Across the news industry, organizations large and small, commercial and nonprofit, single issue and daily news are experimenting with "engagement": Audience engagement, engaged journalism, engagement editors and specialists, engaging for trust, and the list goes on. But what is engagement? Why are organizations experimenting with engagement, and to what effect? We set out to answer these questions through a four month research project where we surveyed the field to identify the practices organizations consider to be "engaged journalism," an inclusive practice that prioritizes the information needs and wants of the community members it serves, creates collaborative space for the audience in all aspects of the journalistic process, and is dedicated to building and preserving trusting relationships between journalists and the public. We then dove deep into four very different organizations to learn not only what they do, but why they engage with communities, as well as how they know if their strategies are having an impact.

An Introduction to Funding Journalism and Media

September 1, 2018

Donors working around the world are concerned about the threat posed by closing space, including intensified threats against freedom of expression and information, and media freedom. This compounds the crisis that the field of journalism – a critical pillar of open, democratic societies – is already facing worldwide. At the same time, the technical and financial barriers to entry into the journalism field have never been lower, and the opportunities to innovate and have impact with journalism have in many ways never been greater. Against this backdrop, the journalism field is increasingly turning to philanthropy for support, including to human rights, social change and transparency donors. This book aims to help funders boost their understanding of the key issues, debates and approaches in funding journalism and media.

Does Showing Poverty Affect Donations? (Basic Research: Working Paper No. 7)

August 13, 2018

This study investigates the relationship between poverty awareness and the willingness to redistribute income, using an incentivized lab experiment with a between‐subjects design. Participants watched one (randomly determined) film out of three possible films for a translation exercise. Those in the treatment condition watched a film about poverty in Singapore; the other two films served as a control condition. I find that the showing the lives of people in poverty affect preferences for redistribution, making the viewer more tolerant towards a government redistribution of income. This effect remains robust even when controlled for emotional or mood states. I find no conclusive evidence of the impact of showing poverty on the viewer's contributions to charity. Showing poverty appears to have a positive effect on donations, but this effect reduces to close to zero when controlling for emotional and mood states. The heterogeneity analysis indicates that the more the viewer likes the film, the more influence the images have on the donations of the participant.

Funding Journalism, Finding Innovation: Success Stories and Ideas for Creative, Sustainable Partnerships

June 20, 2018

Produced by Media Impact Funders in collaboration with Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, this case study report surfaces pioneering funding practices in journalism. It highlights five foundations and their grantees, and describes the innovative ways in which philanthropic support can revive quality journalism.

The Case for Media Impact: A Case Study of ICIJ's Radical Collaboration Strategy

June 7, 2018

In this report, we explore this question through the lens of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its explosive project, "Evicted and Abandoned," in which a collaborative reporting project of more than fifty reporters and fifteen organizations in twenty-one countries took on the World Bank. The investigation found that, over the last decade, projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people; that the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation have financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations; and that, from 2009 to 2013, World Bank Group lenders invested fifty billion dollars into projects graded with the highest risk for "irreversible or unprecedented" social or environmental impacts.

Does Medium Matter? Exploring the Role of Virtual Reality in Journalism

April 1, 2018

In this Knight Foundation-funded report, researchers from the Media Impact Project at the University of Southern California's Norman Lear Center partnered with Frontline and Emblematic Group to explore the impact of using VR for journalism. They found that, relative to other platforms, VR can have a greater impact on holding attention and inspiring attitude and behavior changes. However, "the platform alone is not a magic bullet— it has unique affordances which, combined with effective storytelling and appropriate choice of subject matter, had an impact on a receptive audience."

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