Free download: Making the best of journalism better for audiences

A new report by the American Press Institute focuses on content design examines the facts around complex and divisive topics through alternative formats designed to be more accessible and less politically volatile.

Issues important to communities — jobs, immigration, education, crime, climate change, for example — have grown more complex, and in many cases, politicized. What if accountability journalists tried to reach people with facts about these issues in other ways besides the rigid structure of fact-checking or the traditional story format?


  • Explore various ways to increase knowledge in fact-checking/accountability reporting
  • Determine effectiveness, impact, popularity, audience metrics
  • Suggest modifications to enhance learning and fact-acceptance
  • Explore application in news literacy
  • Review applicable research
  • Create definitions and best practices


We’re collecting and examining examples published by newsrooms around the world, talking with editors/designers about their process and impact, and interviewing design and learning experts about the most effective ways to present information. The examples we’ll examine have these characteristics:

  1. Uses a format relying on visuals and engagement rather than large blocks of text;
  2. Tackles complex issues that are typically misunderstood, politically divisive, or emotionally charged.
  3. Focuses on factual information purposefully presented to increase understanding of complex issues.
  4. Not only attempts to fill in the “knowledge gaps” in public understanding of complex issues, but also addresses the misinformation that so often fills those gaps in the absence of factual information


  • Jane Elizabeth, senior manager/accountability journalism program, American Press Institute
  • Lori Kelley, art director, Seattle Business magazine (also Politico Magazine, The Washington Post, The Virginian-Pilot)
  • Julie M. Elman, professor, Ohio University, the School of Visual Communications (also creator of The Fear Project and designer at The Virginian-Pilot)

Download the full report here:

More about the API study here

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