One of the emerging issues in the information is that it has coincided with the digital era. This leaves us with access to FREE information - great for civil society! Or is it?
Here's what happens for instance when you don't pay for music - the most popular artists are commercial, controlled in their content, appealing to the masses, hiding behind a the facade of pop culture. Its no different with journalism! For instance, The Guardian newspaper receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its Global Development Web page and the Omidyar Network has funded a Web-based outlet called Sahara Reporters, which focuses on exposing corruption in Nigeria.
While this is all great it is a bit concerning that media companies and news networks have lost their ability to generate revenue - it is parallel to an entrepreneur diluting ownership of his company by selling shares because there is no other way to compete, to survive. When the news looses ownership over its content, it also looses ownership over its freedom.
You may argue here that being supported by donors is better than being supported by investors - but reality tells a different story. Donors don't track financial returns - the track a mysterious, enigmatic, intangible concept: IMPACT.
Now, measuring impact is as much an art as it is a science. But we live in a world OBSESSED with quantification. As articulated by this article, does it really make sense to measure your 'reach'? If you exposed 1 million people to an article does it really capture how many people's minds were changed? But maybe we are asking the wrong question. This calls for a more outcomes-focused approach to measuring impact. Did emotion trigger action? Did building awareness spur a movement that made a difference? Is there a way to demonstrate the shift in the dominant narrative? Perhaps if media platforms can track their impact more accurately, it will improve credibility and lead to new potential self-sufficient models.
Lets hope, for the sake of transparency, that voices are not lost because the wrong impact is quantified. And lets hope for the sake of freedom that in the not too distance future, society puts a value on journalism that allows them to be self sustainable to maintain their authenticity.
Media organizations, meanwhile, must watch out for threats to newsroom independence. The increasing focus on measurable impact may become an excuse to decide that only some kinds of coverage are worth supporting. If newsrooms limit their reporting to stories that can have immediate effects or quantifiable results, they might be unwilling to cover large, persistent—yet vitally important—social problems. Ultimately, the impact that journalists can have on society will erode if they must serve the whims of funders. That is true whether the funders in question are government officials, advertisers, corporate owners, or well-intentioned philanthropists.