This is a storytelling site, so let’s start with a story.

In the summer of 1997, financial panic roared across Southeast Asia. Currencies fell, growth stalled, markets tumbled. To an Oregon kid, it all seemed very far away. I was in college, and I was taking economics classes, but I didn’t understand how the Asian crisis was changing my home state, my economy, my life. Not until Rich Read explained it with French fries.

Read was – and is – a business reporter at The Oregonian newspaper. In the fall of 1998, he published a series of articles that diagrammed how financial woes in Thailand and Indonesia were rippling back to the Pacific Northwest. He did it by telling the story of a shipment of fries, which began in the potato fields of eastern Washington and ended at a McDonald’s in Singapore. Along the way, Read introduced readers to a deeply religious sect of spud-growers, a war-vet trucker who drove their machine-diced crop to port and a gutsy Australian who kept the frozen fries cool while a city burned around them.

Those stories brought the crisis home in a way no textbook or straight news piece could, because at each step, they showed how global trends touched people’s lives and livelihoods. They were a reminder that story, as my colleague Tina Griego puts it, is how we make sense of the world.

Today we launch a new destination on Washingtonpost.com, dedicated to the power of stories to help us understand complicated, critical things. We’re focused on public policy, but not on Washington process. We care about policy as experienced by people across America. About the problems in people’s lives that demand a shift from government policymakers and about the way policies from Washington are shifting how people live.

We’ll tell those stories at Web speed and frequency.

We’ll ground them in data — insights from empirical research and our own deep-dive analysis — to add big-picture context to tightly focused human drama.

We’ll invite you to join in the storytelling experience, by clicking a button and sharing your story with us and your fellow readers.

We’ll tell all kinds of stories, because, as my mother the school librarian loves to remind me, people learn in all kinds of ways.

Some stories we will tell in chapters, across days and months, collected under themes that we call storylines. Some of those storylines debut today. Really, they’re big questions about our country: Who’s being lifted by this economic recovery, and who’s left waiting for recovery to kick in? How is the new federal health care law changing how we live and work? How are Americans adapting to life under Washington’s immigration deadlock? Is rural America being left behind in the new economy?

Sometimes we’ll let our visuals — our short documentary films and photo galleries and charts — do the talking. Sometimes we’ll push the boundaries of traditional narrative journalism, weaving those visuals together with text in fun new ways. (We don’t have any fast-food themed devices planned just yet, but give us time.)

We’ve assembled a standout team of storytellers dedicated to this task: the aforementioned Tina Griego, Todd Frankel, Ryan McCarthy, Kelly Johnson, Whitney Shefte, Lydia DePillis, Jeff Guo and Danielle Paquette. We’ll also bring you stories from the most talented writers, artists, polling experts and video and data journalists on The Post’s staff.

We’ll evolve as we grow, and we’re excited about the possibilities ahead. Always, we will try to help you make sense of your world. And always, we will believe in the power of stories.

Thanks for joining us.

Jim Tankersley is the editor of Storyline, where he explains complex public policies and illuminates their human impact. He's from Oregon, and he misses it.