Layering of information is important in display type, which includes headlines and cutlines. Each element can contribute to the storytelling and add facts before the reader gets to the text. This story package from The Daily Tar Heel doesn’t do that well.
THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY
The news is about an Iranian woman who has been in jail for overstaying her visa. She was freed Tuesday and reunited with her daughter. It’s a story that’s been in the news off and on for several months.
Readers who may not be familiar with this woman’s case are likely baffled about what this story is about. This problem is worsened by the fact that the story itself takes six paragraphs to get around to the reason for her detention. The display type never explains why she was in jail. This is a missed opportunity to refresh memories of those who have some recollection of the case and introduce it to newcomers.
Copy editors can fix these things. It’s why we are here, after all. With this story, the copy editor had three chances to pull this package together: in main headline, though that would be tough given its size and shape; in the drophead; and in the cutlines. The cutline under the main photo is probably the easiest place to include the “why” of this story.