Investigative journalism

Case studies that demonstrate interesting, effective or innovative approaches to the design, measurement, evaluation, and learning, from media development and journalism support initiatives.

This page has been created as a resource to support GFMD IMPACT's March 2021 learning meeting on theories of change and impact measurement. Case studies are listed in alphabetical order.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism / Do headlines equal impact?

Miriam Wells explores how the Bureau measures impact. (23 June, 2021)

ICFJ - International Center for Journalism / Gazeta do Povo

The Impacto project linked to in this article is no longer running. However, the ICFJ article does give an interesting insight into measuring the impact of local and investigative journalism.

ICIJ - International Center for Investigative Journalism

ICIJ’s investigations have a global impact.

In response to ICIJ’s work, criminal investigations have been opened, faulty products recalled, leaders have resigned, and millions of dollars have been recouped by governments across the world.

Some examples include:

ICIJ - Investigative Journalism for Europe

IJ4EU was first launched in 2018 as a fund for cross-border investigation journalism in Europe. It has re-launched in 2020 to provide nearly €1.2 million through a combined set of measures, including two grant funding schemes, to support at least 64 new, existing and ongoing collaborative projects.

GIJN - Global Investigative Journalism Network

GIJN has a section of its website dedicated to demonstrating the impact of investigative journalism:

This includes a report on demonstrating investigative impact:

All of GIJN's content on impact can be found here:

MIT Media Lab - Media Cloud: Tracking the Influence of an Investigative Story

The following is written by Ellen Hume. It is taken from "Creating a Global Fund for Investigative Journalism (2019)" page 28.

We can determine how investigative stories are spread through digital social networks, and map how they have generated influence, thanks to the MIT Media Cloud tool. This may be a more reliable and useful measure, one could argue, than requiring evidence of direct “impact” such as the resignation of a public official, or the conviction of an embezzler. These other “impacts” involve other actors like lawyers and prosecutors, who may claim they have played the more important role, bringing the case to success in court. But the origination of the information that spurred that chain of events—the investigative journalism—now can be measured as a social good in and of itself, a good that theoretically should be rewarded because it was foundational to the ultimate outcome.

The Media Cloud tool quantifies and maps how a news topic builds from its origin and spreads through the Internet. As Media Cloud creator Ethan Zuckerman described in a hypothetical example, the Indianapolis Star does an investigative report on Larry Nasser, the gymnastics coach accused of sexual misconduct. Zuckerman’s tech tool is able to map and quantify how the original Larry Nasser story is then spread throughout the web. “Everyone starts writing Larry Nasser stories, which they wouldn’t have one if the Indy Star hadn’t originated their reporting. You can go back and do an analysis that says ‘isn’t this interesting, nobody was talking about Larry Nasser before this research was done.’ Maybe the Indy Star should get some credit every time someone shares ‘Larry Nasser,’” Zuckerman said.

Zuckerman views this pinpointing of the news origin as a way to more accurately credit a news originator with the ad revenue it deserves, rather than giving hits to all those who simply copy, paste, and repost the content. Theoretically, it could be just as useful for a content reward system from a trust fund.

However one wouldn’t want the journalists to be corrupted themselves, by gaming this system to get the maximum financial rewards for their work. As Zuckerman is quick to point out, investigative journalism has to come up dry from time to time because it is based often on random, lucky news tips, like the data dump to Suddeutsche Zeitung that led to the global Panama Papers exposes. Therefore, such journalism needs to be supported without requiring that it produce a consistent return on investment.

OCCRP - Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

OCCRP communicate the impact of their investigations on the dedicated page of their website that is updated quarterly:

OCCRP’s primary basis for measuring impact is increased accountability. We measure this in terms of illicitly acquired funds returned to the public sphere; civic actions, such as a protest calling for change; government actions, such as when a government seeks evidence from another government based on an investigation; corporate actions, such as when a financial institution closes a loophole in the banking system; resignations and sackings, like when a prime minister is forced to quit; official investigations, usually opened by a national prosecutor; and arrests, indictments, and sentences.

Related documents:

Academic research on investigative journalism:

pageInvestigative journalism

Research, reports and articles on investigative journalism:

pageInvestigative journalism


This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

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