Increasingly, foundations are supporting journalism projects — to bolster local and statehouse coverage, illuminate pressing social issues, or ensure that governments and corporations remain accountable. However, when it comes time to evaluate the outcomes of those investments, conflicts with fiercely independent newsrooms can arise.
As our January report, Funder Perspectives: Assessing Media Investments revealed, program officers and journalists need new language and fresh methods to navigate this shifting terrain. That’s why Media Impact Funders has teamed up with the Media Impact Project at USC Annenberg’s Norman Lear Center to produce a 2-in-1 guide: Impact Assessment for Nonprofit News Projects and Their Funders

Side one, authored by MIF Research Director Jessica Clark, offers a conceptual overview of the issues that news funders are grappling with, competing definitions for what constitutes “impact” in the newsroom, and case studies of how grantees are tracking their process and progress.
Flip the booklet over, and you’ll find a nuts-and-bolts account from journalists Jason Alcorn and Lauren Furhman about how to set up an evaluation system in a nonprofit newsroom. Drawing from their own experiences, as well as from conversations taking place across the industry, they offer step-by-step instructions, templates, and practical encouragement.
Insights from both sides of the guide are woven together in the centerfold with a new strategy tool — the Journalism Impact Planning Gauge, pictured above.
We hope this guide will be a valuable resource for stimulating both conversation and practice across the news funding field. We’ll be distributing hard copies — plus an interactive version of the gauge— at our forthcoming Media Impact Forum in Menlo Park. We’d be happy to provide additional copies to interested funders or outlets, and are also seeking feedback on this framework and next steps.
Questions or requests? Contact Jessica Clark.

About the Author
Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark

Research Consultant

Jessica is a research consultant for Media Impact Funders, and the founder and director of media production/strategy firm Dot Connector Studio. She is also currently a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project. Previously, she served as the media strategist for AIR’s groundbreaking Localore project, the director of the Future of Public Media project at American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact, and a Knight Media Policy Fellow at D.C.-based think tank the New America Foundation. Over the past decade, she has led research and convenings with high-profile universities and national media networks, including NPR, PBS, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, MIT, and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. She is the co-author of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (The New Press, 2010), and a longtime independent journalist.