How CIR measures impact and finds new audiences

Futures Lab—a weekly segment on innovation in journalism created by the Reynolds Journalism Institute—takes a look at the Center for Investigative Reporting and how it expands its audience and tracks impact. This post appeared on the Futures Lab blog and has been republished with permission.

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.

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.

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.