Context will save journalism

It often takes a good journalist to put things in context.

Forget the inverted pyramid. Forget the fair-and-balanced dance of pretending to give equal time. Sometimes it’s the power of good storytelling, that puts things in rich perspective.

I am a big fan of Arizona Republic’s E. E. Montini. In his column today (Putting Janet, John and Jon in context) he puts the whole brouhaha of Homeland Security chief, Janet Napolitano in context. Why? Because politicians tend to mangle context just to score points with their electorate. The ground rule: “Every single thing said by every single politician is taken out of context. Usually by other politicians.”

And so it is left to journalists to dig out the nuggets from the past. Nuggets that readers tend to forget, that supporters hope was buried in the archives. Most of us think of Google as the great equalizer, the amazing memory machine. But there’s nothing like seeing context pop up on the front page of a dead tree. Thanks to the other machine, the journalist.

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