Vox’s “Explanatory Journalism” Explained

It sounded vague in the abstract, so check out the actual result: “Vox Cards” that act as instant primers on the background of an issue:

They’re inspired by the highlighters and index cards that some of us used in school to remember important information. You’ll find them attached to articles, where they add crucial context; behind highlighted words, where they allow us to offer deeper explanations of key concepts; and in their stacks, where they combine into detailed — and continuously updated — guides to ongoing news stories. We’re incredibly excited about them.

Incredibly excited? They must be bouncing off the walls in downtown DC. But check ’em out. Max Fisher has cards on Ukraine, Sarah Kliff on Obamacare, and Brad Plumer on GM. I’d say they’re useful, handy, but not exactly revelatory. We’ve already got Wikipedia, after all. And hyperlinks. But it’ll be interesting to see how these cards interact with breaking news in the days and months ahead. A reader has a similar take:

Before the Vox launch, I read Ezra and Matt for their generally astute analysis and, preferably, their candor.

Right now, the innovation of the site – those yellow cards – seems to be not much more than a glorified wiki or an FAQ. I would be sad if we lost their voices in the service of their creating a new “news delivery model”. Format and organization are important, but to me what’s most important about the blogosphere are the opinions and the writing. Are they actually contributing perspectives that will drive the conversation? Otherwise the site’s a little too elementary for my taste. I remain open-minded, since it’s still early, but I was disappointed by the kickoff.


Vox Cards, eh? SNOOZE! That’s absolutely nothing new, as the New York Times and Bloomberg News (where I work) have had very similar round-ups of major topics for a while now. At Bloomberg we call them QuickTakes. Here are a few: EbolaBitcoinACA exchangesIran.