Statewide News Collective launches impact research project with three member organizations

The findings from each newsroom will be used to identify practices that can sustain local journalism and maximize its impact

February 22, 2024

The Statewide News Collective is announcing the creation of a new impact research project and grant program to measure the community and civic benefits of statewide accountability newsrooms. Statewide News Collective members Montana Free Press, New Hampshire Public Radio, and Bridge Michigan will pilot the impact research model. 

Each organization will gain access to unique data about the importance and impact of their work in the community. The research will provide information about community members’ familiarity with the outlet and how they perceive its journalism. The study will also collect data on the local impact of their journalism as it relates to civic engagement, public discourse, and substantive outcomes in the community.  

The Statewide News Collective is a community of practice led by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism that supports independent news organizations serving statewide audiences. It currently has 32 members in 26 states.  

Leading the research is Danny Hayes, professor of Political Science at George Washington University and co-author of the book “News Hole.”  

“I’m excited to work with these three outstanding news organizations to gain a better sense of how their journalism is impacting the communities they serve,” Hayes said. “We know that vibrant statewide news coverage is critical to democracy, and this is an opportunity to document how local journalism can enhance civic engagement and political accountability.” 

Together with the participating newsrooms, Hayes will develop appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures of impact that are tailored to each organization’s community and mission. Each organization will also receive an $8,000 grant to compensate for staff involvement in the project.  

The research will take place over the coming months and will culminate in a detailed report for the use of each participating organization, as well as a public scholarly report, with anticipated publication this summer. Those findings will then be used by The Lenfest Institute to create a publicly available resource to help any organization to do this work on their own. 

This grant opportunity was open to all Statewide News Collective members. The three participating newsrooms were selected based on their interest in utilizing the research to inform future work; diversity in geography, size, business model, among other factors; and commitment to full participation in the process.  

“Understanding the impact of newsrooms that cover an entire state is especially relevant at this moment in time given the increasing power of state legislatures. We hear often from news organizations about the difficulty of tracking their impact on communities,” said Lenfest Institute Director, National Programs Allie Vanyur. “Most organizations are fairly good at tracking the policy and legislative outcomes of their journalism, but we hope to better measure the broader community and civic benefits of statewide journalism.” 

The Statewide News Collective was founded in 2022 by the Institute with RevLab at The Texas Tribune and Spotlight PA. Publications interested in joining the Collective can fill out an interest form or email [email protected] with any questions. 

This research was made possible with support from The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund.  

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