3 GREAT STORIES: The all-New York Times edition

Every week, I shine the spotlight on some of the best storytelling in the business and offer my comments. “3 Great Stories of the Week” will post every Monday at 8 AM.

It isn’t easy to figure out which foods contain sugar (5/21/16, New York Times): I found myself taken this week by the New York Times.

I think it’s easy to overlook the consistently strong and thorough reporting provided by the third-largest newspaper in the country. I do not consider myself a loyal Times reader, but I regularly find an article or two every week that increases my knowledge or shifts my perspective on a given subject.

This past week, I read three.

In this example, Margot Sanger-Katz of the Times’ Upshot series discusses the new FDA nutrition labels and their increased emphasis on “added sugar”. She breaks down the many sneaky and unhealthy ingredients that often find their way into seemingly nutritious products, and she even provides two lists of ingredients that, in her words, “really just mean added sugar”. This is a deceptively simple presentation, providing insights and takeaways in a compact package about a dietary issue that affects all of us.

40 percent of the buildings in Manhattan could not be built today (5/19/16, New York Times): This piece, also from The Upshot, again fulfills the tricky task of turning a statistic-laden subject into a visually appealing and informative display.

It lists no author on the byline and only one name at the end: Mika Grondahl, who provides illustrations that reflect exactly what the title implies. They show how a large minority of buildings in Manhattan, most of which were built in generations past, would not be legal under the city’s current zoning code. The article then reimagines New York City if that zoning code existed the entire time. It is fascinating candy for any New Yorker or outsider who views the isle of Manhattan as a singular specimen.

It all sounds interesting, right? It definitely sounds far more so than the news event that spurred it: the zoning code just turned 100 years old.

An openly gay man runs the Army (5/21/16, New York Times): This final selection also contains no individual author on its byline.

In fact, it is an opinion piece.

And it is simply signed, “The Editorial Board”.

But it again brings perspective and context to a fleeting but momentous piece of news. It sets the tone with this opening paragraph:

Last week an openly gay man, Eric Fanning, became secretary of the Army. Read that sentence again and contemplate what it reveals about how much and how quickly American society has changed. Only five years ago, openly gay people were barred from serving in its armed forces. During Mr. Fanning’s lengthy confirmation process, his sexual orientation was simply not an issue. That is a tribute to those who fought so hard to repeal the ban, and a measure of the nation’s at times uncertain, but as yet unfailing, march toward equality.

Considering the volume and volatility of most opinion pieces, this is comparatively understated. In fact, it reads more like an analysis of both prior and future battles over who may serve in the military. Like the best pieces in the Times, it approaches issues that matter with much-needed sensitivity and depth.

Have a suggestion for “3 Great Stories of the Week”? E-mail me at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at matt@tellingthestoryblog.com. You can also follow Matt on Facebook and Twitter.

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