Linking a fear that must be overcome

29 Feb

In 1999, Scott Rosenberg of declared that if people don’t like using links in their blogs/news stories now, they may be unemployed in the future. I can’t believe how on target he was, almost 10 years before the explosion of social media! Links are imperative to online journalism, and now, readers consider an article that doesn’t use links to be an atrocity. It’s also surprising that links were recommended on websites as early as 2006, when online news wasn’t half as influential and practiced as it is today.

The big question: When should we use links? Answer: As much as possible, with a few exceptions, of course. There are many different ways you can use them, too.

Since online news has become a much larger medium, our attention span has grown thin. We need many different resources from different websites in order to stay on top of things. This is why non-linear storytelling works so well: You don’t necessarily have an “inverted pyramid” format, which is how news traditionally works, but you can get tons more information this way. Which is where links come in. Journalism today could probably be described in one word: interactive. People don’t just sit at their coffee table and read the newspaper anymore.

Linking does have its limits, though. You don’t need to link directly to a website just because it’s mentioned. This may lead readers to think that a newspaper is trying to endorse a commercial product or site. In cases like these, web editors should follow guidelines like those used by the BBC. Links should contain valuable information that relates to the story. In recent years, there has been a rise in reciprocal linking, which refers to websites linking back and forth to other sites. Although this may seem good for search engine optimization, it also has been used solely for higher rankings over other websites. Links shouldn’t just be used for this. It almost seems like a quantity-over-quality issue.

In addition, some people are picky about what kinds of stories they should put links into. Although Robert Niles of the Online Journalism Review says links are effective depending on what type of a story it is, I feel that links can work in any kind of story, even though non-linear storytelling does work fairly well with links. Whenever I look at a story online and click on an embedded link, I always end up going back to the original story. I use these links as explanations for information I don’t know much about; after reading these, I still want to finish the story.

This “fear of links” needs to go away. It’s 2012, and link journalism is not slowing down. We just need to remember which types of linking may not be appropriate, and we can transition smoothly into link journalism once again.


Gabriela Gonzalez:
After just typing in “gabriela gonzalez” in Google’s search bar, the first items to come up were two pictures of her from her Google+ account. This may have been because I was logged into my Gmail account, since we are in each others’ Google+ circles. I decided to try logging out of my account and just typing in her name again, but as a stranger. For more specificity, I put quotation marks around her name and then typed “uf” next to it. I still could not find the correct Gabriela, since there was also a law student at UF with her name. I typed “-law” and “-northwestern,” since there was also a student at Northwestern University with this name. Her search results may have been poor because she has a pretty common name. Finally, I decided to enter things like “LinkedIn” and “google+” after her name, and I finally got more results. She wrote an article for the Alligator in 2010. Unfortunately, these were pretty much all of the results I came up with.

Luke Gavin:
I had to type in: “luke gavin” uf to find any sort of results on him. On the first results page, three of his blog entries came up, as well as a few articles he had written for the Alligator. He was not difficult to find at all.

I found out that he is in the Air Force ROTC at UF, as well as a contributing writer at the Alligator. He also wrote an article on a Dutch exchange student.

Casey Speers:
Casey was an easy person to find. By just typing in “casey speers,” I found his LinkedIn, Google+ and Myspace accounts on the first page of results. When I typed in “uf” after his name, I found even more results, including a website he made for a class. He also was a contributing writer for the Alligator, and one of his articles even showed up on NYU Poly‘s website. He enjoys hanging out with friends, reading (such as “Harry Potter” and “Catcher in the Rye”), Nirvana, Radiohead and “Forrest Gump.”


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