Is it possible to imagine an impact-driven journalism?

I have been trying to think about the impact issue from the perspective of social enterprise and civil society for a while by reason of working with Teyit. To find answers of the questions such as “What is social impact?”, “How can social impact be monitored?” and “What role does the theory of change play in social impact?” is an important part of my job. I’ve noticed that the subject of creating and monitoring impact was brought to the agenda of journalists as a matter of debate when I attended the 8th International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy for the first time. Thus, it motivated me to ask the above questions for journalism and mull this over. In this article, first I would like to touch on the social impact which we aim to create as a social enterprise focused on publishing, and our theory of change in this respect. Secondly, I would like to think over the effect of journalism and invite you to think about it as well.A photo of a session named “Impact Measurements: Tools, Frameworks and Case Studies” held with the guest speakers Rachel White, Hannah Young and Annie Chabel in the International Journalism Festival.

As a social enterprise, Teyit aims to create a positive impact in society by producing content and conducting activities. To monitor the impact, institutions first need to develop a theory of change in line with their existential purpose. The theory of change provides you guidance on the steps that you’ll take, according to your final objectives (e.g. several final objectives of Teyit are preventing the spread of misinformation and generalizing critical thinking) related to the problem by presenting a map of the necessary activities and of the actors to be included and reached if possible. Of course, this is not a static guide. Rather, it is a dynamic tool which requires revision periodically. Nowadays, you might have achieved most of the objectives in the theory of change and may tend to broaden your impact circle one step further. Alternatively, you may realize the inefficiency of the methods which have already been applied, so you may take new actions. On the other hand, the theory of change is not a tool that can be shaped easily in a short time. Even though the formation of the theory provides you great convenience for determining your direction, forming it is a quite challenging process. Based on my experience in Teyit, I can describe the following three important components which facilitate this process: a genuine problem defined perfectly, an objective to be reached and a team which believes in both components and are attached to the mission determined.

Another significant consideration in monitoring impact is to find and identify the correct metrics. We pay attention to work meticulously and to keep the data of our works since the beginning of our journey. The questions “To which points of the defined problem can we touch?” and “Which data obtained from our work can be included in this process?” are guiding us. The available technical opportunities easily give us a great amount of data such as the number of pageviews, the visitor profiles and the amount of time spent on pages. Although these indicators are of importance for interaction, they are insufficient for impact. Considering impact, It is significant to understand how online and offline circles are affected by the published news and the produced content or what kind of a change is triggered. Such change can be observed individually, socially or institutionally. We are aware that monitoring the impact is very challenging and seeing it as a whole is impossible. However, every step to be taken in this regard is priceless.

Social impact in journalism

I actually think that the issue of social impact, which we frequently use in jargon of social enterprise, should be in the agenda of journalists as well if we regard journalists as the individuals who look after public interest and who convey useful information. In this respect, public interest and social impact approximate to each other. Though journalism is considered as the activity of transferring information in a broader sense, monitoring the receivers of that information and ways that they receive them can be a part of this process. One of the reasons for distrust in media and growing news avoidance in Turkey may be media’s disregard of creating such impact.

It is definite that journalists face several challenges at this point. To act with the keys of social interest or impact-driven journalism requires a more independent and freer work environment in this profession; and perhaps the development of different work models as well. For example, the following question is essential: “To what extent can the journalists who work in a media platform based on advertising or in a news agency in the grip of an ideology perform their job independently or objectively or in a social impact-driven way?” However, taking actions with a focus on the problems suffered by society and on social impact may create a loyal community who believe in us. Such group may be our pillar of support in overcoming the crisis of revenue model.

A profit-oriented institution is deemed successful based on the profit earned consequently raising its work motivation. Similarly, journalists and the social enterprises like us are motivated by the information about their role in improving people’s lives. We need to work in an elaborative way and act responsibly in obtaining such information.

Cover image: Leon Postma, De Correspondent
Translation: Sonay Ün

Cover image: Leon Postma, De Correspondent
Translation: Sonay Ün