NYT still doesn’t get the web

If the New York Times won’t, maybe Google will.

I’m talking about pointing to original research: something I’m very interested

in with my Report Report Report. (There have been quite a few articles I’ve

wanted to write an RRR on, but haven’t been able to get the original paper.)

This week, the NYT’s science editor, Laura Chang, is answering questions from

readers. I asked her why the NYT’s web stories couldn’t provide links to original

research, or why the NYT couldn’t even host copies of the research itself if

the authors were amenable, which they often would be. She didn’t answer my question

directly, but she answered

a very similar one:

I, like several readers who asked similar questions, also wish our articles

could include specific links to sources. We’re working on it, but it’s a more

difficult goal than we imagined. It can be a tedious job to insert such references

into articles, raising a basic question of best use of our reporters’ time.

This is a terrible answer. I admit that I don’t know how easy or difficult

it is to insert a hyperlink in a NYT news story, but I suspect it’s not quite

as hard as Chang makes out. But even if it is "a tedious job", journalists

should do it anyway.

The job of a journalist on the New York Times or at any newspaper is to serve

the paper’s readers. Most of the time, that means doing classically journalistic

things like interviewing sources and crafting clear and compelling stories.

And some of the time it means doing things which can be tedious: waiting outside

a courthouse for a defendent to emerge, for instance, or making sure that hyperlinks

go into stories.

The New York Times claims that nytimes.com is not simply the paper version

of the newspaper put up on the internet: it’s a web-based news source unto itself.

And certainly nytimes.com gets orders of magnitude more readers than the paper

version does. So it’s frankly stupid for journalists to do all manner of tedious

things for a paper story but to draw the line at creating a hyperlink.

The fact is that if you’re writing about a scientific report, and the report

is available online, you should link to it. Always.

But if the New York Times won’t maybe Google will: we now have Google

Scholar, which looks wonderful. I can’t wait to test it out for my next

Report Report Report.

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1 Response to NYT still doesn’t get the web

  1. bafc23 says:

    How difficult is it to include a hyperlink? Every blog program I’ve ever dabbled with makes it about as easy as clicking the ‘link’ tab and pasting the appropriate address or pdf. NYT is cheap and lazy if they can’t get a reporter – hell, an intern! – to prep the material and link it in the story. On my blog I do it when I proof-read the post, having already set aside a list of all the relevant links I intend to include. I know I”m preaching to the choir here, but perhaps you could pass this along to the Times luddites.

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