The nut graf tells the reader what the writer is up to; it delivers a promise of the story’s content and message. It’s called the nut graf because, like a nut, it contains the “kernel,” or essential theme, of the story. (By Chip Scanian—Poynter.org) It's the paragraph telling what the story’s about, so people know why to keep reading—and whether they want to. It’s usually the second paragraph. It can, however, be combined with the lede, come a bit later or be longer.(—Leigh Ann Otte)
The nut graf is where the story’s angle is developed. Every story is described from some kind of viewpoint.This viewpoint is called the angle.
The nut graf has several purposes:(—Poynter)
It justifies the story by telling readers why they should care.
It provides a transition from the lead and explains the lead and its connection to the rest of the story.
It often tells readers why the story is timely.
It often includes supporting material that helps readers see why the story is important.
Ken Wells, a writer and editor at The Wall Street Journal, described the nut graf as “a paragraph that says what this whole story is about and why you should read it. It’s a flag to the reader, high up in the story: You can decide to proceed or not, but if you read no farther, you know what that story’s about.”(By Chip Scanian—Poynter.org)
The Wall Street Journal is home to a form best known as the “nut graf” story, although it is also identified as the “news feature” and the “analytical feature.” This genre’s hallmarks include anecdotal leads that hook the reader, followed by alternating sections that amplify the story’s thesis and provide balance with evidence that presents a counterthesis. But its chief hallmark is the use of a context section, the “nut graf” in newsroom lingo. Now newspapers and magazines around the world publish stories following the form that emphasizes explanation over information and understanding over knowledge. Online news sites also rely on this form.(By Chip Scanian—Poynter.org)
More on Writing Nut Grafs From Dennis G. Jerz Seton Hill University
A few sentences, following soon after the lead, that explains the newsworthiness of the article. Sometimes called the "nut graph" (short for "paragraph") or simply the "nut." Why should the reader bother to care about what follows? How do the events in this story relate to recent trends or events, national or international issues, or unusual human interest?
A story that leads with an account of a mugging might have a nut that notes this was the third mugging this week, or that it happened the night the mayor gave a medal to the police.
When writing a nut, never say, "This story is important because...", and don't try to address every single possible way that a story might be considered newsworthy. Instead, write a paragraph that flows naturally from the news you have just reported, and links these specific details to the greater community of readers, answering the question "who cares?"