In Search of Accountability Journalism in Australia (2000–2021)

Steven Maras, Rodney Tiffen

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference presentation/ephemerapeer-review


A central pillar of the news media’s role in a liberal democracy is that they are a force for holding governments and other centres of power accountable. Much of this is done implicitly by reporting on their actions and statements. Sometimes it is more explicit and self-conscious. Systems of accountability and media power are constantly evolving, shaping expectations around both calling and holding to account. Different discourses, expectations and definitions of accountability can impact on the assessment of performance. Drawing on Factiva data between 2000 and 2021 this paper charts accountability as an explicit focus across four news outlets—The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The West Australian and Crikey. In our analysis we ask whether the four organisations emphasized accountability differently. We also explore whether there were any long-term trends (between 2007 and 2021) towards more explicit emphasis on accountability, and whether there were differences between the organisations. Dividing the sample period into five periods—two Labor governments, followed by three Coalition governments—allows further comparisons: were there differences between ALP and Coalition periods, and were later term governments held to more explicit account than first term governments, and again were there contrasts or similarities between the news outlets? Having discussed these general trends, we explore the relatively recent rise of ‘accountability journalism’ in journalism studies and ask if the emergence of ‘accountability journalism’ coincides with more attention to accountability in the Australian press.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2022
EventJournalism Education Research Association of Australia (JERAA) Annual Conference - Pan Pacific Hotel , Perth, Australia
Duration: 6 Dec 20228 Feb 2023


ConferenceJournalism Education Research Association of Australia (JERAA) Annual Conference
Internet address


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