Futures Lab Update #94: Measuring Impact and Finding New Audiences at CIR

    by Reuben Stern
    February 20, 2015
    Part of the Center for Investigative Reporting's engagement strategies is to collaborate with local playwrights and theatre groups to bring stories to audiences who might now find out about them through traditional news outlets. Screenshot courtesy of RJI.

    This week we get an inside look at some innovative efforts by the Center for Investigative Reporting to expand the audience in unusual ways and to track the impact of the organization’s journalism out in the community.

    "I think for funders and grantees, there should be incentives in getting enough of a framework, enough of a data sort of apparatus, that you can make informed decisions in the middle of a grant, because traditionally, for many years, the evaluation happened at the end, when the grant was over. So how can you effect behavior change and try a different strategy if something's not working, if you don't find out until you're done spending the money on the project?" -Joaquin Alvarado

    Reporting by Tatiana Darie, Reuben Stern and Rachel Wise.


    PART 1: Partnerships to reach new audiences

    Central to CIR’s ethos is collaboration and partnership with other organizations. Recently that has grown to include performance groups, which are turning weighty investigative reports into live productions that engage and inform live audiences in a different way. We hear from Meghann Farnsworth, director of distribution and engagement, about how the partnerships work.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    For more information:

    Storyworks is the collaboration between CIR and the Tides Theatre in San Francisco. The latest production, “Alicia’s Miracle,” premiered in January. It explores the potentially harmful chemical fumigants used on strawberry farms throughout California. Dramatizing the plight of five fictional characters, the play conveys key factual information uncovered during a 15-month CIR investigation and also illustrates the complexity of addressing the issue in the real world. In addition to English-language performances, the play was translated in Spanish; and plans include taking the show on the road for performances in some of the affected areas across the state.


    Off/Page Project is the collaboration between CIR and the literary nonprofit Youth Speaks. Some examples:

    • This Is Home,” written by three young poets who explore the troubles with the Richmond Housing Authority at the center of a CIR investigation.
    • Whispers From The Field,” a short film in which a young poet offers a different take on the story of female agricultural workers being raped, harassed and assaulted on the job (inspired by an in-depth investigation by CIR and other partners)

    PART 2: Tracking impact

    CIR staff members track and observe how their journalism brings about real-world outcomes, thanks to an in-house tool built by Lindsay Green-Barber, an ACLS Public Fellow working in their newsroom.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    For more information:

    A series of blog posts on the CIR website offers more details about how the organization is defining and measuring change and how various stories generated micro, meso and macro impact.

    PART 3: Radio show and podcast

    CIR is re-centering its journalism around a new radio show and podcast called Reveal. The hourlong program, produced in collaboration with the Public Radio Exchange, provides a new avenue for working with partners to deliver in-depth investigative work. We learn more about the initiative from CIR’s Chief Executive Officer Joaquin Alvarado, Managing Editor Amy Pyle and Director of Distribution and Engagement Meghann Farnsworth.
    [To skip directly to this segment in YouTube, click here.]

    Reuben Stern is the deputy director of the Futures Lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute and host and co-producer of the weekly Futures Lab video update.

    FuturesLabWebBanner-mediashiftThe Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Futures Lab video update features a roundup of fresh ideas, techniques and developments to help spark innovation and change in newsrooms across all media platforms. Visit the RJI website for the full archive of Futures Lab videos, or download the iPad app to watch the show wherever you go. You can also sign up to receive email notification of each new episode.

    Tagged: audience development audience engagement center for investigative reporting cir engagement funding grants rji rji futures lab

    One response to “Futures Lab Update #94: Measuring Impact and Finding New Audiences at CIR”

    1. Jose M. Vadi says:

      I think you are on the cutting edge of the new journalism. You have a great challenge to cut through the clutter of information overload trash and to give proper focus to issues of social, political, cultural, and economic import.

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