Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Link-Related Practices in Sports Journalism

By Colin Reynolds

So here is a pretty interesting article from the National Sports Journalism Center about the evolution of journalism from print and television to the online medium. Incorporating links into online news delivery has become essential for nearly every news organization and second-nature to the users experience. So much so that I hardly notice that I'm utilizing links are including them in something that I write, although I always do. But I never hhave actually considered corporate policies on links and whether they are allowed minimum and maximum link additions for their reporters. It wasn't until John Burnett from NPR came to talk to our class that I realized that this was a reality in the newsroom (it was either Burnett or Larry Rohter from The New York Times, I actually don't recall which one).

Anyway, this article lays out a set of commandments (and suggestions) for how to use hyperlinks in a news story. The article focuses specifically on sports journalists and how this reporters should use links but the rules obviously transcend sports and are relevant to all reporters. Here's a quick recap of 5 rules outlined:

1. "A link is not an endorsement" - I think this is pretty self-explanatory but it does make sense to note that a link does not equal an stamp of support or even agreeance. Therefore reporters should not worry about linking to a counter argument to their point. Readers are sophisticated enough to tell the difference.
2. "Never surprise a reader with a link" - Keep the reader in mind when including a link. Let them know what they are getting and don't trap a user in browser windows. Also, if content is possibly offensive, warn the reader first.
3. "Linking increasingly obliges you to be a gateway" - This keeps a reporter connected to his/her readers without feeling obligated to cover every story or gossip that ends up on the web. Becoming a gateway to other information, a reporter can maintain a level of standards and ethics while remaining in touch and on top of what's happening.
4. "Reader assumptions are bad for you" - Readers assume that journalistic ethics or a code of standards to be laziness on the reporter's end. Don't assume that the readers view your standards the same way you do. Readers like gossip and there is no other gossip hotspot like the internet.
5. "Therefore, explain yourself" - Be more transparent in your reporting and tell the readers your intentions and reasoning behind certain decisions. If a story or rumor has become popular and watercooler fodder, link to it and explain why you (or your newsroom) aren't covering it. This will hopefully help develop trust with your readers.

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