Being the “Redheaded Stepchild”
The news of the State Department spending $630,000 on Facebook likes broke out amid harsh criticism but the whole fiasco points to larger issues around internal politics at State—according to ForeignPolicy.com’s snarky “Cable Guy.” He argues that the bureau charged with this hefty expenditure, the International Information Program (IIP), suffers from a number of structural problems, from a nebulous mission without the power and ability to address “real” issues to a lack of consistent leadership to a reputation of being the “redheaded stepchild of public diplomacy.” This coupled with the pressure to harness the power of the internet makes it easier to see why they and other organizations (government and otherwise) turn to (shaky) digital media analytics to prove their worth to internal and external audiences.
Non-profit news is not new but professionals in the field are still struggling to figure out who is responsible for measuring impact—journalists or funders? This question comes up in any grantor-grantee relationship but within this field, there is concern that journalism will become conflated with advocacy—a thin and dangerous line. Chuck Lewis and Hilary Niles consider this and other related questions in their paper titled “The art, science and mystery of nonprofit news assessment.” One of those larger related questions—what does impact even mean for non-profit journalism?
More and more research is being done on how popular media, like television and radio soap operas, can be used to spread important social messages, especially in the developing world. We’ve already seen popular media bring about changes in attitudes around birth control and domestic violence, so it’ll be interesting to see what other issues popular media will attempt to tackle, and whether they will even try to measure impact. No, this is not permission to watch endless hours of NCIS…but we won’t tell!