There's a couple interesting things in Paul Bradshaw's chapter on the press, transparency and data, which is called: The Transparency Opportunity: Holding Power to Account -- or Making Power Accountable.
It's in the following book: Transparency in Politics and the Media: Accountability and Open Government
Bradshaw breaks down how journalists, and regular people, can hold those in power to account through the three-legged stool method.
Leg one: Right to Information Laws. The US passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966, and five decades later 90 countries have similar laws.
Leg two. Public Service Initiatives, using government information online to help citizens. This came about in the latter years of the 20th century and could include websites like They Work for You, tracking how often Parliamentarians attend sessions along with parsing their votes. In the US, I would add to the list the Environmental Working Group's farm subsidies tracker. (Some may argue it falls below...)
Leg three, which is just a few years old. The Open data movement, using massive amounts of government data -- scraped from websites or spreadsheets or gathered from large PDFs. Bradshaw quotes Tim Berners-Lee on how journalists should be spending their time these days:
"Journalists need to be data savvy. It used to be that you would get stories by chatting to people in bars, and it still might be that you'll do it that way sometimes. But now it's also going to be about poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyse it and picking out what's interesting."
The problem is, Bradshaw says, UK-based journalists are not to be found using this data. Some small businesses use government data, as do national and local public sector institutions and academics. Even the non-profits use it. But -- in the UK, at least -- journalists have shied away from leveraging this data.