A resource for news innovators to learn, plan & do.
Complexity: Beginner
Article Complexity Bar Graph

Accountability journalism: A primer

Accountability journalism encompasses all journalistic efforts that strive to hold powerful people accountable for what they say, what they do, and what they should be doing.

The popularity of accountability reporting

Stories that come under the umbrella of accountability journalism are consistently among the most popular content produced by news organizations, according to the American Press Institute’s Metrics for News data.

Best practices and common mistakes

Clarity and transparency, and authority with humility are hallmarks of effective accountability reporting. Guidelines/best practices for for all forms of accountability reporting should be specifically designed to meet those standards. Clearly “showing your work” to readers and other acts of transparency are essential for building trust — and, over time, readership — in your content. Mistakes and missteps occur when best practices fail.

Presenting the accountability story

The fact-filled nature of accountability journalism can result in a story that’s dry and emotionless. The best accountability stories are told through a variety of carefully selected platforms, styles and interactivity.

Being a “committed observer

Especially in local and regional reporting, accountability journalists can find themselves personally impacted by stories. These reporters in particular need to know how to navigate those situations, and should follow newsroom ethics guidelines.

Hiring and training accountability journalists

Top accountability journalists possess specific reporting skills, knowledge of their audiences, and work habits.