If thought about media accountability is hindered by a lack of conceptual clarity, as was suggested at the start of this article, then it is important to define the accountability process and to introduce a fairly precise vocabulary to describe its components.
Media accountability can be defined as the process by which news organizations or journalists are obliged to render an account of their activities to recognized constituencies such as audience members, news sources, advertisers, professional colleagues, or government regulatory bodies. An account is an explanation, or justification, of one’s conduct. The process of media accountability is strongly influenced by the social, cultural, and political environment in which the news organization exists and in which an account is demanded. Underlying the notion of media accountability is the assumption that journalists and news organizations are more likely to behave in a manner that society would define as responsible if they know that they may be required to explain their behaviour.