Coverage that counts

asf-lat-firebynumbers

The “by the numbers” story form is sometimes criticized for divorcing those numbers from their context. This is indeed a hazard of this technique, but the key is recognizing that hazard, not dumping the “by the numbers” idea altogether.

This example from the Web site of the Los Angeles Times shows us how to this well. The “by the numbers” box on the homepage shows the vital statistics related to the recent wildfires in Southern California. It is a story that is both important and incremental. The box summarizes the story well, and having it online rather than in print allows for frequent updating. It’s another piece of the story along with the slideshow, the news story and the opinion piece. One thing that could be improved is the color; the grey numbers are a little hard to read.

So yes, be careful with those numbers-based textboxes. Don’t make the numbers BIG in the design when they don’t need to be, and make sure the reader can connect the numbers to their larger meaning. But don’t count out the “by the numbers” idea when the content works.

More advice on story forms collected here.