Canada’s Globe and Mail Uses Expandable Inline Meta-articles to Explain Its Coverage

Journalism matters. Educated citizens who understand and appreciate the role of the free press in a democracy are a threat to authoritarian figures who benefit by sowing mistrust. It’s perfectly reasonable to point out errors and bias in specific news stories. (News organizations love reporting about when their competitors get a story wrong, and journalists are regularly disciplined or ousted for egregious mistakes.)  It’s hardly constructive to use the errors of individual journalists to justify a claim that journalists in general are unreliable or “fake.” We should all be downright terrified to hear our president repeatedly claim that journalists are “the enemy of the American people.” I think I’m most disheartened by people who just shrug and say, “I see so many conflicting stories, I don’t know what to believe.”

I was thrilled to read about The Globe and Mail‘s plan to embed, within its news stories, expandable inline mini-stories that contextualize the news. For instance, here’s an example of a news story that relies in part on anonymous sources, with an inline explanation of exactly how and why journalists use anonymous sources. (The explanation clarifies that the reporter is not just repeating a rumor — the reporter knows exactly who the sources are, and has checked out their claims.)

Screen shot of a Globe and Mail news article that uses an anonymous source, with an expandable inline explanation of how and why journalists use anonymous sources.The goal of the Globe Primer is to provide readers with more context on a certain topic within a story — or on a journalistic decision made by the paper — without them having to leave the article to find the answer. Krashinsky Robertson said the Primers can range from the Globe’s policy on anonymous sources to an explanation on why Canada is joining the peacekeeping mission in Mali.

“As a news organization, it’s perhaps an opportunity for us to be helping people fill those gaps without forcing them to go to Wikipedia or start Googling things, just to try to get the background they crave on a story and maybe fall down that internet rabbit hole we’ve all experienced a million times before,” she said. —

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