Monday, June 7, 2010

'Link journalism' means remembering the links

Reading Danny Sullivan’s “How the Mainstream Media Stole Our News Story Without Credit,” my first thought was:

“Dude, I feel you pain: about 30 years of it.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve busted my butt to turn out an exclusive story, only to see a broadcast outlet swipe my hard-earned facts, with no new reporting, and use it as their own. Without credit.

Then there’s the age-old strategy of The Associated Press – take a story from a member newspaper, write a new lead, and move it across the country.

But I’m not only the victim in all this, I confess to being a conspirator. I think all of us have had an editor at one time or another run up to us waving a story from a competing news organization, saying, “We need this story. Go out and get it.” What they mean is, go out and get a story just like it and don’t tell anyone we got the idea from another organization.

Not one to argue with the person who provides I paycheck, I comply, although I’ve always tried to add depth, context or new reporting.

But Sullivan makes great points in tracking how his story about a woman suing Google over its walking directions.

With link journalism, we need to be more cognizant of crediting sources by linking back.

From when I first worked for a newspaper that decided it needed a web site – in 1998, and we thought that was behind then – grabbing links of research has been a practice. Editors would always ask for “web extras” and reporters would shrug and say, “What’s that.” A list of links found during research worked to give readers context and more information.

Then came upload source documents, as Sullivan did, so people could see where we were getting our information.

Now with delicious and Publish2, it’s easier than ever to save those links. Download the browser tool bars, click and save. Then share the list with your web team and they can run it, or embed it into the story.

Old news, you may say? You know this already, don’t you?

Well, read Sulllivan’s post and you’ll realize that while this may be basic online journalism, too few people are doing it.

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