Links are the best thing the internet has given journalism. They lead back to the original quote, the book, the article, the report, the statute, the data. Like footnotes in academic writing, links keep the writer honest. (Except when they don’t — like students with footnotes, some journalists do misrepresent what linked sources say.)
Still, following a link lets the reader figure out whether the article adequately explains the proposed legislation or accurately summarizes a 113-page report. A link to a speech lets the reader decide whether the quote means what the article says or means something different when it’s read in context. Links to other articles offer background, history, and depth.
Vox card stacks are like links on steroids. A card stack is a list of questions, each with short-answer background and links. Every stack focuses on an issue in the news and breaks it down in easily digestible chunks. For example, Everything you need to know about the child and family immigration crisis has thirteen cards with questions and answers, a card with links to more information and a final card explaining the history of changes to the card stack.
Explanatory reporting, according to Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark, helps readers to “make sense of a more complex, technical, and cluttered world.” Vox card stacks offer a great example of explanatory reporting.