Research roundtable: Cross-field collaborations (CJS2022 Day 2)
3:16PM May 25, 2022
civil society organization
So next we're going to turn to our research round table. We've got 330 minute research papers to present to you all very new research. One paper that was published a few weeks ago, one that was published yesterday, and one that has not been published yet, you're gonna get a sneak peek at. So first I'd like to welcome my colleague, Sarah Stonbely to the stage. And she is going to present about Crossfield collaboration, a research paper that we recently finished. So Sarah. Great, thank you so much, Stephanie. I am thrilled to be here at our sixth annual collaborative journalism Summit. I'm very excited to be able to speak about our latest research on collaboration, which is on Crossfield collaboration.
And I was so glad to see everyone in person here in Chicago yesterday, thanks to all who are joining online, it's really nice to be able to be in this space again.
So the research that I'm going to talk about today is, like I said, I'm Crossville collaboration, I want to acknowledge a couple people. One is my my co author, Hannah Sziemaszko. Another is Heather Bryant, who was very involved with the research as well. And I would also like to acknowledge the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who brought this project to us and funded the research. And really, sort of were the, you know, the foundation for the the research itself. So we're really excited to be able to be here and speak about it with all of you. I would also like to note that I'm going to go through a bunch of slides today, I have all of the slides that I'm going to be able to be able to give to everyone. And I'm not going to speak to each one of them. So I encourage you if you are interested to check out the slides that I will be sharing later, there's an entire website devoted to our sub website devoted to the project, which is collaborative journalism.org backslash cross, hyphen field, and you can see everything about it there. And we also have for those of you who are with us in person today in Chicago, a few hard copies at the registration desk, so you can grab a hardcopy there if you'd like.
Let me start by defining Crossfield collaboration that is the cover of the hardcopy, if you happen to grab one. Across field collaboration, as we're calling them is a partnership involving one journalism organization, at least one journalism organization and at least one civil society organization who the civil society organization is usually can be an advocacy organization, but not always, in which they work together to produce content in the service of an explicit ideal or outcome. similar in many ways to collaborative journalism, collaboration between two journalism organizations as we defined it in our 2017 paper, comparing models of collaborative journalism, but different in the sense that obviously, it involves the civil society elements. So this can be NGO, university, civic tech, org, all any any sort of nonprofit type of organization who partners up with a journalism organization. These are usually crossborder in scope. They're usually investigative. And we've seen some of the most impactful investigative journalism and advocacy come out of cross field collaborations in recent years. Next slide, please. So in the research that we did, we looked at 155 Crossfield collaborations, so 155 specific projects, those one and 55 projects spanned 125 countries around the world. And the tally of entities involved was 1010. So it was a pretty sizable sample. So we were really happy with that. But I should say that as we continued to research, I mean, we were adding in projects up until the very last minute, and we really feel like we sort of just scratched the surface. So I think that there's a lot more to do in this space. Our method was snowball sampling. We did 52 interviews, and usually the interviews resulted in, you know, referrals to other people, you know, oh, let me introduce you this person, you should you have to speak to this person, you know, who I worked with on this project, etc. So that was great. But I should mention, you know, some sort of methodological caveats, which is that that meant that we probably didn't, you know, snowball sampling means you're sort of like self, the projects that you're looking at are sort of self referred. So as I said, there are a lot of projects that we didn't look at, specifically in, I would say, Asia and the Middle East, primarily because of sort of language barriers on a part of the research team, but also because, you know, it's just that I really think it's just a massive there's a massive universe of projects to look at. So, further research is always welcomed. We used airtable As our primary sort of place to store all the information, and you're welcome to dig into the paper and look at that if you'd like. Next slide, please. So I'd like to give you some examples of the types of cross blue collaborations that we looked at.
Where I'm going to talk about three different projects. But as I said, we looked at 155 different projects. So there were a lot more as well. The first was, next slide, please. A project called pluma hay from an investigative journalism organization in Mexico called NML, Politico. pluma. Hay is what animal politico has done is basically opened up an entire sub web sub site on their on their webpage to highlight and to give space to civil society organizations in Mexico. So this is something it's, it's, you know, more than they're acting more as just a source, because these are deep relationships that they've forged over the years, I believe they were I believe animal politico started in 2010. And they've forged deep relationships with civil society organizations. So they are, you know, just basically giving space to them in a way that, you know, lets the CSO, you know, speak for themselves and really like dive into the issues in a way that they wouldn't be able to do otherwise, if they were just quoted as sources, or, you know, putting out a press release or something like that. The next project that I wanted to highlight is from is one of these, it's from ICI J, it's called the FinCEN files, you may be familiar with it, it's kind of like a Panama Papers style, I hope they don't mind me saying that project, which is, you know, sort of just to say one of these very large sort of cross border investigative projects very, sort of typical of the type of investigation into corruption, and, you know, sort of democracy and that sort of thing that we saw, involving, like I said, dozens of news organizations, and then also, CSOs as well. And then finally, sensors, Africa, is very cool project out of Africa, which involves several news organizations, and then a bunch of civic tech orgs. And what this project did was, and also involving the community as well, there's a big engagement element, they put sensors air it for the air quality, for water quality. And this is not and not only water quality, but like to monitor the weather. So like when Fisher people would go out onto the water. A lot of times, there's not good information about what the weather is, and they could, you know, they get caught up in a storm or something like that. So next slide, please. I just wanted to show this is also very typical of a lot of the projects that we looked at, where they have a dedicated webpage for the projects, and they'll highlight very transparently, and like sort of proudly, all of the different partners involved. So you'll see there's like a bunch of news organizations that are based in Africa, and then in partnership with like code for Africa, and, you know, other civic tech awards and stuff like that. So these are just some of the projects that we looked at. Just, yeah, I'm gonna skip this slide. So as I've sort of alluded to, there were three topics that really rose to the top in terms of how common they were, like what most of these projects that we looked at, were about, the most common was governance and corruption. So 25% of the 155 sort of projects in our sample were about some elements of like, governance, corruption, like that sort of thing. 16% were about climate or the environment, and 15% were about human rights issues, including women's rights, LGBTQ plus and other stuff like that. So these these were very, these are the most common topics and you can sort of begin to see you know, it's not like most of these projects are not trying to highlight like good things that are happening, although I'm sure they would love to, you know, right. It's usually like wrongdoing, malfeasance other sketchy things happening
in with under these umbrellas. I talked a little bit about the caveats. I can go to the next slide, please. So really, like why why has Crossfield collaboration become more prominent? What has driven, you know, journalists, organizations, and civil society organization department partner more commonly, more sort of more explicitly with more intention. And as we began to, you know, sort of, as we spoke to people, we spoke to 52 people in lengthy interviews, and we gathered a bunch of data through survey through surveys that we sent out, and then obviously, a lot of desk work and stuff like that sort of research and stuff like that. We identified three different reasons that we think Crossfield collaboration is becoming more common. Number one, and these are not wholly different from the reason why collaborative journalism in general, is becoming more common. Number one, information producers can no longer rely on the common, you know, the common channels for their work to be seen, right. So it's not like you don't have like a big mainstream media or like, you know, a couple of very well read, you know, industry outlets. Really, it's such so fragmented now the media sphere so they are partnering to have broader reach, right. If you have more outlets involved do you have Our audience you have also the ability to put your information your content into different incarnations. So like it can take different forms. We heard from a lot of CSOs who said, you know, we love partnering with journalists, because it turns our sort of dry 50 page, white paper into, you know, a narrative form with visuals that people can, you know, become more engaged with. And vice versa, right, like, so the journalists who partner with the CSOs, they're happy to have their work be seen by those audiences as well. Number two is the resource constraints that are faced by so many newsrooms today, as we've heard so much about. And also what comes along with that is the specialized skills that, you know, civic tech orgs can bring to a project, right or journalist bring to a project or universities bring to a project, right? So when these topics become so complicated, I mean, these investigative projects are so complicated, they require all these different sets of skills. It is everyone's benefit, if brings a lot of people together with different skills. And finally, and perhaps most interestingly, there's a greater desire for impact, right? When so many time and resources are put into an investigative project like this. It's really frustrating to not see any impact from it. And, of course, most advocates, you know, CSOs if they're advocacy organizations that sort of their reason for being but for journalists, as well. We talked to a lot of people who said, you know, of course, we are neutral, and we don't have an end game in mind, but but at the same time, like we want this work to have impact. So that's a really interesting ethical quandary that I'll talk about a little bit more in a second. If you have or if you're looking at the full paper, or you have the hardcopy, we do some histories or some some historical context and definition work, which I'm not gonna get into right now. So, we started by digging, by digging in and looking at like, Okay, well, what are these? You know, what's, what's the percentage of journalism and CSOs? So we found that within our sample, so I should also just say, like, of course, this is just within our sample, it could be different if there's a bigger or different sample, roughly 60% were journalism organizations, and roughly 40% were CSOs, although I want to caveat that slightly by saying that, there were like a couple huge projects, like FinCEN files, where it was like 99 journalism organizations and for CSOs, so the number actually might be closer to 5050. And that implies Next slide, please. Where were the entities based, who worked on the projects in our sample 57% were in Europe, North America. 12% were in Central America, primarily Mexico, Mexico has a lot of Crossfield collaboration happening. 11% were in Africa, 10%, South America, Asia 2% was another. So again, this is me maybe speaks more to our sample than, you know, just sort of the snowball the snowball method, but it's happening everywhere is one of the main takeaways. We found something really interesting as we were looking through this and thinking through who was involved, we thought we saw that certain countries had entities that we're working on projects that were based elsewhere, right? So a lot of entities from the US, for example, are working on projects based in Africa, based in Mexico, based in Europe. And we decided to call those countries sort of crossbow collaboration exporters. We also saw that certain countries had projects that were focusing on them, but they had no sort of homegrown organizations involved. Afghanistan.
I'm not remembering all the other ones right now. They're in the paper but and then finally, we saw a lot of countries where they have projects taking place, and their own organizations are working on them. Mexico is a big one, again, some countries in Africa, South Africa, especially. So we decide to call those self directed collaborators. And why does this matter? Well, what we did was we got the we gathered a bunch of census data and gross national income data. And we use Transparency International's perceived corruption index, and we call it we correlated or whether a country was an exporter subject or self directed collaborator with those different structural variables. And what we found was that, as you might expect, the countries with higher gross national income and lower perceived corruption tended to be the exporters of Crossfield collaboration. And countries with lower gross national income and higher perceived corruption tended to be the subjects of these investigations. And that's why it's important what these topics what the topics were, right, because, like, you don't want to be the subject of a crossfield collaboration, generally, you know, they're looking into corruption, they're looking into human rights abuses, they're looking into environmental damage, right. So we thought that was really interest sitting. Next slide, please. And I say that exact thing right there. Next slide. And then again. Thanks. So, what what is the typical size of across field collaboration? This small, smaller, smaller projects were the most common. So 68% of the projects we looked at have to only two or three organizations or entities involved. By it, you know, by definition, one has to be a journalism organization, one has to be a CSO, right in order to make it across collaboration. So that was the most common previous slide please. And, and similarly, for the three, the three organization ones, the organization ones, interestingly, the number, like between nine and 30 organizations was the tide for a second most prominent size. So they're either really small, it's like two or three organizations involved, or they're like somewhere between nine and 30 organizations involved. And you can kind of imagine those being like the cross border, investigative projects, where a lot of journalism outlets are working, and then they bring in a few CSOs, civil society organizations like civic tech org and stuff like that university or whatever. So that we thought was really interesting. Two slides from here, please. Great. One of the other things we noticed was that of the 1010 entities in our sample, 770 of them, or 77% of them had only done one Crossfield collaboration thus far. And we took that to indicate that there is great potential, right, I mean, and this would require further research, but like, you know, assuming they had a good experience, and they just haven't had the opportunity, for whatever reason to do another. We think there's like a big, vast, untapped potential for more cross collaborations with the organizations who kind of are already familiar with them have already done one, perhaps had a good experience and just don't have haven't had another opportunity. Next slide, please. So what does the what does the management funding and differences in perception look like? So we didn't, so let me just say this is from our survey data. So as with collaborative journalism, where it's journalism to journalism, a project manager is crucial, right? They need there needs to be someone who is dedicated, at least in part to managing the day to day logistics of the project. Also, unique to CrossFit collaboration. The what we heard from our interviewees was that this person needs to be very adept at translating the different work cultures, specifically, because journalism tends to have a very quick turnaround, as many here know, right? Like, there's a deadline, you have to get the information, you have to get it out. Whereas you know, universities have a very different timeline very much longer. And then, you know, civic tech orgs have like this very, tend to be very anti hierarchical, from people we talked to, and they'll spend hours like discussing something and the journalists couldn't get frustrated. So there's, it's really helps if there's a project manager to sort of, mediate all of those differences. Yeah, great. Yep. Next slide, please. We did not focus a ton of our data on funding, because we really just wanted to get like sort of an idea of the breadth and scope of across the collaboration to begin, but we did ask about it in our survey. And we found that the most common source of funding, perhaps not surprisingly, is philanthropic funding, followed by self funding. So a lot of the organizations who undertook these collaborations funded themselves because they really felt like it was important, they saw the importance of it, and they saw that it was something that would benefit or, you know, be mutually beneficial. Government funding is next, and then corporate funding. Next slide, please.
One of the other things by virtue of one of the very nice things about having sort of Geograph a large geographic sample is that you can do some comparative work. So we noticed that sort of between the global north and the global South, so you know, sort of the countries, you know, North America, Europe, and then like Africa, Latin America, South America, we noticed some differences in the way that people talked about Crossfield collaboration. And we just thought this was really interesting. And this is actually borne out in other academic literature on comparative comparing journalism cultures. And I'm not going to talk too much about it here, because it's kind of a separate topic in itself. But I'll just I'll just mention that we did notice when we talked to our interviewees about this. The journalists who were from the global north who had been sort of schooled in the tradition of objectivity and sort of Western like neutral journalism, supports a lot more hesitancy about collaborating with CSOs, especially if they're advocacy organizations. Whereas the journalist from the global south who spoke With really didn't, didn't have that hesitation at all. In fact, a lot of times they outright rejected any sort of notion that they shouldn't be working with these advocacy organizations. So we found that really interesting. And again, I encourage you to look more closely at the paper, because it kind of is an in depth topic all of us own. Next slide, please. One of the big things we wanted to look at was impact, right, because as I said at the beginning, this is something that really a lot of organizations who undertake this type of project are interested in. And it's kind of almost one of the very reasons that they do these types of collaborations. So we tried to look at impacts. And you know, a couple of things interesting about impact. So number one, it really depends on whether the organizations involved have the resources to track impact and to report it back out. So I think that I was going to try to do something sort of quantitative with impact at first, and then I realized, like, it's almost meaningless, because the sample is so much based on whether the organization has the resources to track it. So next slide, please. Why is Why is impact difficult to track? Three reasons. And again, not so different from collaborative journalism. Number one, impact is diffuse, right, especially when you have multiple, you know, organizations in different countries, different audiences, different, you know, realms of possible effects, it can be very diffuse, and that makes it difficult to track. Number two, the impact data are still often qualitative. You know, you have to track mentions, you have to hear from someone who contacts you specifically, you know, you collect anecdotes about, you know, different government impacts and stuff like that. So that makes it difficult to capture programmatically. And number three, the organizations involved often have different impact measures and different metrics for tracking impact, and they often have different levels of priority in terms of tracking impact. Next slide, please. The other thing is a lot of the impact that results can take months or years to track and are to be seen and to be felt. So it's it's really requires someone who is specifically thinking about and funded to do and dedicated to tracking the impact, you know, months or years later. And that's one of the recommendations we make at the end is that when projects like this is being big is starting, both the funder and the people involved should be very explicit about a like funding someone funding some element putting funding toward tracking impact. And then also designating, like the time, the amount of time after the project ends, that impact is gonna be tracked, because that's really, so much of it is just kind of staying on it. Well, Fitz Gibbon does a really good job of this, he has been tracking impact from the FinCEN files, which is great. And a lot of ici J's work. Okay, so I know I'm running, I'm getting a little bit close to time. And I want to leave a little bit of space for questions. But I want to quickly talk about different realms of impact. So this is not so different from other impacts. But we did feel the need to sort of go from micro to macro. So individuals, impact on individuals impact on organizations, impact on political conditions, impact on social or cultural, economic, and physical conditions, meaning like the environment. And then we felt that we wanted to break out politics from that we wanted to break out political individuals and political institutions, because I think that's like such an important
distinction in this particular case. Next slide, please. One of the innovations that I'm I was kind of excited about that we made as we were looking, you know, there are positive, positive and negative impacts. That was kind of what we started observing, right? So we would see like, okay, yes, this government official is being, you know, kicked out because of corruption. But also the journalists who was involved, like his car was bombed or something like that, right. So those are two, those are both impacts. And I was started calling them positive, negative, and I was like, well, positive for one person is negative for another, and blah, blah. So we decided to call them accordant and discordant impacts, according to impacts being those that were intended as a result from the project. So like the politician, being reprimanded, and then discordant impacts which are not, which run counter to the practice call. So this would be like all of the all of the adverse impacts on the journalists involved, you know, or something like that. So I think that distinction is really important. And obviously an organization who is funded and who wants more funding is going to be probably less likely to catalog and publicize the discordant impact from their project. But it's really important right? Like it's important for people who want to undertake similar projects in the future to understand that like this, this other discord an impact could also results and how to maybe mitigate that from the beginning. So please check out the paper for all the different examples of so we I because I can't write a paper without writing making a matrix. We have can you do the next slide please? We have realm and then according to discord and we have a bunch of different examples of each. But we did find, again sort of like a less systematic way. But we did observe that impact on organizations external to the collaboration, but not political institutions. So like businesses, something like that, and unpolitical conditions. According impacts were the most commonly recorded and publicize, if not the most common in real life, difficult to know. Certainly a good feel for further research. And as I'm quickly running out of time, I'm going to very briefly mentioned this very important ethical quandary that journalists who do these do these Crossfield collaborations find themselves in, which is sort of neutrality versus advocacy, right, as I sort of have mentioned throughout journalists, especially from the Western tradition, who have been schooled in objectivity, do have difficulty reconciling those two things. So they want to partner with advocacy organizations to have their work have impact. And they that same time, they want to be neutral, and they don't want to have like an stated end goal for their journalism. Miriam Wells from Bureau of Investigative Journalism is very thoughtful about this. And I would refer you to her work as well. I would like to sort of skip ahead through the slides very quickly, because I want to leave time for questions. I have five minutes left four minutes now. Stephanie, are any questions coming through? Okay, so then I can, sorry, so back. If we don't have any questions I can finish with please. But
we do. Okay. So, Richard Weiss asked journalism ethics were cited as the obstacle to sharing a recent Crossfield collaboration with a larger collaborative. So I think that he's referring to something that he's ran into. Is it ethical for reporters or their work product, but the partnering nonprofit, or more specifically, checking clarity and accuracy of a nonprofits study prior to publishing? Haven't journalism in school that sharing reporting in this way is unethical?
Okay. Yeah, this is so this gets exactly to what I was just speaking to. So that's great. Great question. Um, I would say that this is exactly what the journalists struggle with. And the journalists we spoke to who, again, have these sorts of ethical quandaries, but choose nevertheless, to participate across the collaboration, which I should say also, there is no different there was no difference in our sample between participation by journalists from the global north who are more hesitant and drills from the Global South, the journalists from the Golden Arches feel more compelled to like voice hesitancy, but they still take undertake these projects at the same rate, and what they've done. I know, we noticed two things that they've done, they have, and there's a slide for this, I think we don't have to find it. They have a made very explicit guidelines for these projects that they publish, they, they're very transparent about their work methods, and you know how they are or not going to work specifically with the cross with the CSOs that they partner with. So that's one way. And the second way is by sort of, you know, the the way they talk about them the way they talk about these projects, so they are willing to say listen, like it would be on it would be untruthful, for us to say that we don't support human rights, it would be untruthful for us to say that we don't think corruption is bad. Like there's there's like a there's a place. There's a place in which neutrality is like kind of ridiculous, is what they were saying. So I think in terms of the specific question, like whether you should be checking in and stuff before accuracy before I think that that happens routinely, I don't, I didn't get the sense from our interviewees that they thought that that was unethical. If that helps.
Any other questions? I have run out of time. So we I can't believe how fast that 30 minutes.
Okay, I think we have like another minute or so. Yeah. Just to wrap up. I mean, what are some things that journalists should think about before they partner with the CSL or look for a CSO to partner with? Yeah, so definitely do your research, you know, do your research on the reputation of the CSO, because you're going to want to be transparent about who your partners were in the project. So do your research, do they have a good reputation? Do they have good sources? Do they have good relationships with the communities that they are working in? Because that is one of the main reasons that journalists you know, go to CSOs is they, the CSOs have been working in this communities for a long time. They have great deep relationships with people.
You know, so So do your research. And just be aware that like, there are going to be differences in work culture, you know, there are going to be differences in like timelines and stuff like that. So have all of that hammered out before you enter a partnership. And thank you for giving the opportunity to tease we have two one pagers coming out after the summit one is on. One is for journalists who want to partner with CSOs, and one is for CSOs who want to partner with journalists, sort of distilling some of our findings.
Yes, hopefully we'll get those out in the next couple of weeks, hopefully, and we will also be doing a webinar. Remember, yes.
I'm in June diving a little bit deeper into this topic for folks who want to talk more
great thank you so much