Stuff Explained gives readers context, perspective

By Keith Lynch

Stuff

Christchurch, New Zealand

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Every day New Zealanders flock to Stuff, the country’s biggest news Web site, to find out what’s going on in their world.

Stuff is a broad church. We cover the entirety of New Zealand, reporting on everything from the minutiae of regional councils to the high-level decisions that keep us safe from COVID-19.

The reality of daily reporting means our stories are often about the who, what, when, and where of the news.

We report a lot of news. We do it accurately and quickly. But we know sometimes our news doesn’t offer all the necessary context that readers crave. Yes, we tell them what happened, but we don’t always tell them why it happened and why it matters.

This year, to help time-poor readers navigate the deluge of daily news, we launched Stuff Explained. 

Stuff Explained is a commitment to doing more, a new Stuff product dedicated to explaining the complicated topics of interest to New Zealanders.

Stuff Explained has looked at the risks New Zealand faces from tsunamis. A tsunami near the city of Gisborne on March 26, 1947, caused widespread damage along the coast. (Published with the permission of Tairawhiti Museum.)
Stuff Explained has looked at the risks New Zealand faces from tsunamis. A tsunami near the city of Gisborne on March 26, 1947, caused widespread damage along the coast. (Published with the permission of Tairawhiti Museum.)

Personally, I’ve always been inverted-pyramid hesitant. The traditionalist approach to news reporting is fine when reporting on breaking or simple news.

But it buckles when context and nuance are required, when the search for that killer first paragraph may actually result in oversimplification.

This, I believe, frustrates many readers who want to see reporting acknowledge a complex world that can’t necessarily be condensed into a few simple paragraphs.

I also think it’s rather reductive, particularly in the era of commoditised news. Essentially every news outlet may well end up with very similar stories.

Stuff Explained takes a different approach, helping our audience understand challenging and difficult topics through accessible and humane language.

Our reporting has been (and will be) thoughtful, thorough, and honest. It will note uncertainties where uncertainties exist. It will also be digestible, chatty, and certainly not patronising. It will take risks, be innovative and, often, it will be fun.

So far, we have tackled a diverse range of topics. We’ve explained the risks of reopening the border with Australia. We’ve examined one of the busiest intersections in the country to understand the mechanics of trafficWe’ve explained the risk New Zealand faces from tsunamis.

We’ve examined New Zealand’s out-of-control housing market, using the story of a single house that’s sold 13 times to explain the historic forces driving the market.

The results have been incredibly encouraging. The reporting has not only been extremely well-read, but it has also prompted almost universal audience praise and excellent engagement.

It’s a good start. We hope to see Stuff Explained evolve and grow, through the creation of alternative storytelling techniques such as animated videos or podcasts.

Of course, we want our reporting to be well-read. But there’s more to it than that. We want it to be a must-read for curious Kiwis who care as much about news as we do.

About Keith Lynch

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