Week7: ‘Linking’ an Asset to Online Journalism

29 Feb

Linking, in its most basic form, is bringing an outside voice to a story or article.  It allows journalists to provide their readers with additional information that the article may not include, but is relevant to the content.  Although some traditional journalists from the “old school” may be skeptical, most are quickly realizing that linking to outside sources of information, even if it’s from a competitor or rival newspaper, might not be such a bad idea.  In this new world of Internet-savvy readers who have less time but expect more information, links are crucial.  It’s important to  give the reader as much access to information within the article as possible, even if it means he or she may leave your site momentarily.

Jim Stovall, a writer for JPROF, discusses the importance of “link journalism” (as coined by Scott Karp) in a piece he wrote back in 2006.  Stovall may have been ahead of his time.  He points out one article in particular that was done by the Los Angeles Times, which had everything one would expect from a great news piece — “interesting topic, good reporting, straightforward writing, good quotations.”  What it was missing, however, were links.  Even six years ago, Stovall realized the importance of links in making an article more engaging and interactive.  The problem was that news organizations hadn’t yet caught on to the idea, and some even discouraged it.  Journalists were hesitant to integrate their work with someone elses.  Researching and finding additional information also takes time, which some journalists on a deadline may not have had.  Still, as Stovall points out, “linking is too valuable for the reader and too important for the journalist to be ignored.”

Although link journalism is catching on rapidly, there are some guidelines to follow. It’s possible to take away from the meat of the article and lose the reader if not careful.  Robert Niles, with The Online Journalism Review, points out that “hyperlinks also allow writers to clutter stories, and to distract and mislead readers away from the narrative of the piece.”   A paragraph shouldn’t contain any more than two or three links.  Otherwise, the journalist risks distracting or confusing the reader.  Additionally, the link should only contain a few words — no more than five — again so the reader doesn’t lose focus.  The key is to give your reader the ability to research the content of your article on a deeper level if he or she chooses, all from the comforts of one single webpage.

The advantages of reading newspapers and articles online are numerous.  As more readers continue to gravitate to the Internet for their news, it is increasingly important for journalists to become experts in the art of linking.  If done properly, the original content of the article is enhanced.  The goal is to follow the path of “non-linear story telling,” as outlined by Jonathan Stray.  The reader chooses bits to read by following links.  “Choosing whether or not to follow a link is a simple way for a reader to tailor the presentation to what they already know, and to indulge their own curiosity. And links let you skip the boring bits,” Stray explains.  I couldn’t agree more.

John Boothe: Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook  I also found links to several articles that John has written in the past, for the Alligator.

Marissa Lyons: Quora I found links to a few articles Marissa wrote for The Post at UF, and also a resume that is public.

Finding information on my two teammates wasn’t very difficult.  John had more hits that Marissa did, I think only because he writes for the Alligator.  One problem I did run into at the beginning was after typing in John’s name, about half of the hits I got were for “John Wilkes Booth.”  I had to tailor my search by putting quotes around “John Boothe.”  I also included “University of Florida” and “Gainesville FL” around both names, to narrow down my search.

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