Breeze Richardson of Chicago Public Media shares the power of metrics

The unbelievably smart and passionate Breeze Richardson of Chicago Public Media chatted with my Participatory Journalism class this afternoon. We talked about the engagement metrics she has set up, which she described beautifully in this RJI blog post, the need for a culture of assessment in newsrooms, and how to best effect organizational change.

Breeze Richardson on engagement metrics
Participatory Journalism class at Mizzou, May 2, 2012

I always leave conversations with Breeze:

  1. Smarter
  2. Determined to change the culture of journalism
  3. Optimistic about opportunities for change
  4. Wondering if she’s hiring, because I’d love to work with her

I want to share just a few of the highlights from today’s conversation.

  • “If something is going to be institutionalized, it should be tracked and measured.”
  • Whenever possible, tie specific projects and efforts back to an organization’s strategic plan. If you have a mission that talks about bringing in more voices from the community, and you can tie specific efforts to that part of the plan, you have clear backup for your ideas. You also have a way to hold people accountable — something to point to that offers justification for the strategy.
  • Know what you’re tracking and what you’re not tracking, and track metrics that address your goals. This is another way of saying one of my favorite metrics mantras: The ROI of analytics data that lead to no action is zero. Track only what helps you make decisions.
  • Newsrooms are not used to being held accountable. Digital journalism has given us a window into audience, and being responsive to that audience is not always comfortable.
  • To reward people who focus on engagement, credit staff by name whenever possible. Don’t underestimate public praise as a motivator.
  • Think about what concrete steps reporters can take to make their stories engagement-friendly. This is one my newsroom is about to take on — a best practices guide for implementing the diagram on the wall of our newsroom showing the kind of journalism we value.

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