Thanks to Matthew Ingram of GigaOm for transparency and the work compiling a debate conducted via Twitter about news stories offering links to source material. That news stories should provide links is a given for many, like Matthew, but it’s not a universal view. I think it’s the ideal (as Matthew writes, doing readers a service “by making stories as complete as possible and by providing them with links to further information instead of making them hunt through Google for it” — which also makes sure they don’t find misinformation via Google), but I struggle, given the limitations of the content-management systems I’m familiar with, with the idea of where in the process the links get inserted and by whom, especially if it’s to be the norm for all staff-generated stories. The Web “staff” at most news sites are not enough to handle the volume, and as noted by Patrick LaForge in the Twitter debate, it doesn’t fit neatly into the reporting and writing process. Which is probably how we arrive at the current state of affairs: Stories deemed to be important and of high reader interest get the attention needed to build the Web extras, including links to outside material, but the typical story is linkless. (Another job for the robots?)
5/20/2011 UPDATE: More on this subject, from Publish2.
5/21/2011 UPDATE: I confess I am still catching up on much of the online debate on this topic (more here, with good discussion in comments) and have no idea yet what initially brought this boiling back up as a major topic this week. It seems to me that, while it might be helpful as Scott Karp at Publish2 suggests to adopt technology that favors Web-first publication and easy importing of that work into a print editorial system, and while those such as Doc Searls are correct in saying there remains some (ever declining, in my experience) curmudgeon resistance to the idea of linking out, the larger problem is trying to turn the Titanic. A daily newspaper of any size, especially if it is part of a larger integrated media company, simply has so many moving parts (human, mechanical and technological) that we all might recognize exactly what we wish we could do, but it’s like being in the left lane of the expressway at rush hour when you realize, as your passengers give you instructions on five separate topics, that there’s an exit just ahead that would take you to a much better route home. It’s a direct descendant of the much older issue that used to be the big eternal issue occupying newsrooms, which is balancing the desire for really excellent writing against the need to meet deadline (a saying I always heard goes something like, “Good writing is a fine thing, but we have a newspaper to put out”).