Documenting EJN’s Impacts on Environmental Policies

Since the inception of the Earth Journalism Network in 2004, we’ve tried to keep track of our impacts, but have found it easier to collect quantitative indicators – 13,000 journalist members, 12,500 stories produced, over 12,000 journalists trained – as opposed to qualitative ones.

Over the last decade, however, we’ve made an ever more concerted effort to keep track of how governments, institutions, companies and individuals respond to the stories or projects we support. We’ve been asking some key questions: What impacts have EJN’s activities had? Have the stories produced as a result of our funding or mentorship led to more informed conversations, action by individuals or communities, new policies or policy changes by governments, or other key outcomes?

To answer those questions, we’ve developed a robust process using a methodology called Outcome Harvesting and worked with our partner journalists and media organizations to track and validate key outcomes as a result of our work. We know it’s difficult to determine how a news story leads to real, sustained change, but we’ve documented evidence that it does, and that continued reporting on an issue has the power to make a difference.

EJN has now started to collect that evidence into a new page on our website dedicated to promoting and explaining the impact we’ve had on environmental policies, debate and behavior. The page features quantitative data on our work since 2004, explanations of our methodology and strategies for tracking impacts and a collection of impact stories we’ve found dating back to 2007.

For example, in Pakistan in 2018, grantee Amar Guriro covered the intense, often-fatal heatwaves in Pakistani slums and what policy changes were needed to prevent future deaths. The story picked up steam among civil society organizations and residents, and eventually a government official reached out to say they were working on a solution.

In 2017, Colombian journalist Andrés Bermudez Lievano was given a story grant through EJN’s Biodiversity Media Initiative. His stories on the Marginal Jungle Road in the Colombian Amazon eventually led the country’s president to condemn the road, and the entire project was cancelled.

EJN-supported stories triggered a Dutch parliamentary inquiry in 2019, led the Myanmar government to shelve a major dam planned for the Irrawaddy River in 2009, saved a national park in Vietnam from a ruinous development project, ignited a national discussion in China about the endangered giant panda in 2016, and more. You can read about a dozen of the most important impact stories on our new Impact page, and we are in the process of collecting and documenting many more that will be added to it.

In an era when reporting on the environment has become increasingly necessary and journalists are facing ever greater challenges to both funding their stories and reporting on them safely, EJN is proud of the work we do. It has never been more important to understand and demonstrate the impacts that good reporting can have, and we look forward to continuing to document them for many years to come.