Who’s Running the Company? A Guide to Reporting on Corporate Governance

IFC, which promotes good practices in corporate governance in emerging markets, is not in any way associated with ICFJ's charitable gift-giving program.


This Guide is designed for reporters and editors who already have some experience covering business and finance. The goal is to help journalists develop stories that examine how a company is governed, and spot events that may have serious consequences for the company’s survival, shareholders and stakeholders.

Topics include the media’s role as a watchdog, how the board of directors functions, what constitutes good practice, what financial reports reveal, what role shareholders play and how to track down and use information shedding light on a company’s inner workings.

Journalists will learn how to recognize “red flags,” or warning signs, that indicate whether a company may be violating laws and rules. Tips on reporting and writing guide reporters in developing clear, balanced, fair and convincing stories. Three recurring features in the Guide help reporters apply “lessons learned” to their own “beats,” or coverage areas:

  • Reporter’s Notebook: Advice from successful business journalists

  • Story Toolbox: How and where to find story ideas

  • What Do You Know? Applying the guide’s lessons

Each chapter helps journalists acquire the knowledge and skills needed to recognize potential stories in the companies they cover, dig out the essential facts, interpret their findings and write clear, compelling stories:

  • What corporate governance is, and how it can lead to stories. 

  • How understanding the role that the board and its committees play can lead to stories that competitors miss. 

  • Shareholders are not only the ultimate stakeholders in public companies, but they often are an excellent source for story ideas. 

  • Understanding how companies are structured helps journalists figure out how the board and management interact and why family-owned and state-owned enterprises (SOEs), may not always operate in the best interests of shareholders and the public. 

  • Regulatory disclosures can be a rich source of exclusive stories for journalists who know where to look and how to interpret what they see. 

  • Reading financial statements and annual reports — especially the fine print — often leads to journalistic scoops.

  • Developing sources is a key element for reporters covering companies. So is dealing with resistance and pressure from company executives and public relations directors.

Each chapter ends with a section on Sources, which lists background resources pertinent to that chapter’s topics. At the end of the Guide, a Selected Resources section provides useful websites and recommended reading on corporate governance. The Glossary defines terminology used in covering companies and corporate governance topics.

Notes: All figures are in U.S. dollars. The terms “company,” “corporation” and “enterprise” are used interchangeably to refer to a business entity.