Editor Cooper Levey-Baker (Pic by Cliff Roles)

Impact. It’s a word we at The Florida Independent throw around daily behind the scenes, but it’s not an idea we talk about much in public. Sure, it’s featured prominently in our statement of purpose (to produce “news that impacts public debate and advances the common good”), but in the daily What Have You Published in the Last 10 Minutes? rush, it’s easy to overlook.

I’d like to change that.

The Florida Independent’s goals are different than those of other news outlets. As they are for any online publication, pageviews and unique visitors are vital stats for us (they’re an important yardstick with which to measure our reach), but as a nonprofit, we’re free to focus on metrics that have nothing to do with the bottom line — impact being the main one.

But what does it mean to have impact?

The definition can be slippery, and has a “know it when you see it” kind of vibe, but we generally think of it as having a tangible, verifiable effect on an important public topic.

“Verifiable” is important. Plenty of times, we can see traces of our influence in, for example, statements from public officials or stories taken up by the mainstream media that had previously been ignored. But seeing those traces isn’t good enough. We want to know that X did Y because, and only because, we published a story on it — which generally means that, in the course of our reporting, we surfaced original information.

Kind of vague, I know, but the easiest way to explain it is probably just to share some examples of what we call impact. And so, with this post, I’d like to introduce you to The Best of The Florida Independent.

Over the course of this week (during which we’re on a temporary, Christmas- and New Year’s-induced hiatus), I’m going to be posting examples of impact stories we published in 2011. They may not contain the finest reporting we’ve done; they may not feature the most polished writing we’ve put down. But they’re the stories we’re most proud of, because they show that our reporting has directly affected people’s lives. They show that our reporting has had a positive impact on the state of Florida.

Keep your eyes peeled throughout the week. We’ve created a new category — “Best of The Florida Independent” — that you can bookmark to follow all of our impact narratives from 2011.

Thanks for reading. We’re looking forward to having an even greater impact come 2012.

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