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Effective accountability journalists exhibit broad curiosity and eagerly adapt to new technologies and platforms

The high-impact accountability reporters we studied consider themselves — and are seen by others — as “early adopters.” Their high level of curiosity propels them to adapt to new platforms, audiences, technology and content with unusual willingness and a sense of necessity and practicality.

“Mutate or die,” is how Harrisburg (Pa.) Patriot News political writer and opinion editor John Micek explained his own transition from traditional to multiplatform journalism.

There is an “unevenness” in newsrooms in who takes on those challenges. But for these reporters, an appetite for transformation and a desire to be experimental is evident. “I try to go into the sandbox and play around,” said Brandon Rittiman, a TV political journalist from Denver station KUSA.

An innate curiosity, sense of purpose and even bravery seem to underpin the journalists’ willingness to embrace change.

Troy Carter, a government reporter from the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle, created an experiment using podcasts on Facebook and mapped campaign finances. Tom Jackman, a Washington Post crime reporter and the most experienced journalist in our group, said, “Though I play the role of old and crotchety, I actually like learning about and using new stuff. I want people to see my work, however that happens.”

An innate curiosity, sense of purpose and even bravery seem to underpin the journalists’ willingness to embrace change. Clinton Yates, a sports and culture reporter from ESPN’s The Undefeated, said, “It’s interesting to me to hear reporters say, ‘OK, I’m done with this print story and now I’m going to get a sandwich.’ I can’t imagine going back to that world” — an old-school world where a reporter’s job is done when the print deadline is met.

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