This paper was written for the Global Investigative Journalism Conference held in Lillehammer, Norway, in October 2015 as part of the academic track. http://gijc15.sched.org/event/44Im/sustaining-high-quality-journalism?iframe=yes&w=i:0;&sidebar=yes&bg=no
By Anya Schiffrin and James Robinson
The question of how to produce and disseminate high quality news reporting while attaining financial stability and making the most of what digital technology has to offer is perhaps the most pressing question facing journalists today. Many of the new outlets are successful in one of these areas but not in all three (Massing 2015). Much of the current literature that media practitioners could learn from is focused on US media outlets and emphasizes financial sustainability rather than quality of news. While we will draw on the literature of innovation and social network analysis in order to understand how ideas are spread we are mostly interested in the diffusion of news and information as a public good rather than an as an expansionary commercial venture.
In order to expand the discussion of how digitally-minded journalists can successfully launch and grow high quality news outlets, we are assembling a large data set of international online news initiatives around the world in order to see if there are discernible points in common and to understand patterns of success and failure. With the help of master’s degree student researchers at Columbia University, we have begun distilling down our list of peer-reviewed sites and carrying out interviews with media innovators in Australia, Kenya, Lebanon, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, the US and other countries. As well as case studies of some successes, we plan to produce a list of 40-50 quality news sites from around the world. We will look to see how they are financed, how they are staffed and managed, what kind of information and news they provide and come to an understanding of what it takes for these innovative news sites to grow and endure.
We expect to have the first results of our study by the end of the summer and would be delighted to present them for the first time at the GIJN meeting in Lillehammer. Our findings will be of interest to the donor community, media investors, journalists and media innovators around the world. Even more, we hope to provide useful lessons learned and tips for GIJN members and other journalism organizations that hope to successfully innovate and experiment with producing high quality news.
James Robinson is the former editor of TK and a graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism.
Anya Schiffrin is a lecturer at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and director of SIPA’s media and communications specialization.
Research support provided by Nathan Flaherty, Kristen Grennan, Abir Joshi, Ryan Powell and others.