Take a number — and put it in context

not teaching, still THINKING … Election ads. Full of increases, decreases, numbers and percentages. Whether you are consuming news about the upcoming elections or you are engaged in campaign coverage, here are some quick tips about putting numbers into context that might help. These tips are intended to empower you to publish clear stories that […]

Context can enhance even a solid story

BIG numbers. How can journalists convey how big? A good example is found in the work of Manny Fernandez of The New York Times, whose story about Houston after Hurricane Harvey carries the headline: “Over 21 Miles of Highway, Snapshots of a Resilient Houston.” How can we visualize the size of Houston? Fernandez shows us […]

9 words clarify ‘frozen meat’ detail

Much has been written and shared about the massive search for two prisoners who boldly escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, almost three weeks ago. Details have included: How the two men made their exit Who at the prison helped — by providing tools How the tools were handed over — in frozen meat Anyone […]

May you keep proper perspective

MAY you … For the month of May, we are devoting this blog to our wishes for journalists present and future: “MAY you … “ Every day, you will find a tip, a tidbit or a top-of-mind piece of advice we hope will help you now and later On the third day of training for interns […]

Warning signs that context is missing

A close cousin to background in a story is context. Together, they might account for no more than two paragraphs or so in a story. They are powerful in their presence and conspicuous in their absence. Here are some warning signs that context or background is missing. Uncertainty over the answer to any of the […]

Japan blackouts lead to cosmic element

Getting “cosmic” with a story is a way to define a story’s place in a bigger context, whether it is locally, regionally, nationally or globally. This concept is sometimes confused with the nut graph, but it is something different entirely. The reason we bring up the cosmic element now is that The New York Times […]