Building partly on a previous post on the value of indices, I'm highlighting this week a new edited volume published by Peter Lang Press, entitled Measures of Press Freedom and Media Contributions to Development: Evaluating the Evaluators. This rich and informative collection of essays, edited by Monroe Price, Susan Abbott and Libby Morgan, focuses a spotlight on well known indices in the area of press freedom and media independence, raising valuable questions about what the indices are measuring, what they are not measuring, and the linkage between assistance to independent media and democratization. I've contributed a chapter to this volume, as have expert colleagues such as Guobin Yang, Andrew Puddephat, Lee Becker and Tudor Vlad, Craig LaMay, fellow CommGAP blogger Silvio Waisbord, and many others.
Monitoring and evaluation is typically considered a fairly dry topic in the realm of media development, but it is absolutely necessary to achieve desired impacts and ensure continued learning. Particularly in a field where results cannot be measured as easily as, say, bednets can, developing well-grounded plans for achieving goals and measuring results is crucial. As some essays in the book point out, the challenge starts primarily at definition (what exactly is a free press? an independent media?), moves through intended goals and impacts (an informed public? national dialogue? representation of diverse voices? good governance? democratization?), and encompasses indices, indicators, donor priorities, and styles of monitoring.
For anyone looking to unpack some of the concepts we often take for granted in the broader "voice and accountability" world, this volume is particularly relevant. The Center for International Media Assistance at the National Endowment for Democracy has also commissioned and published an auxiliary report that synthesizes the findings for a wider audience, available here. I'd urge anyone interested in examining the value of indices, or broader issues relating to the media and governance, to read either or both.