The Importance of Hyperlinks in Web Journalism

You many have noticed a prevalence of hyperlinks in the previous post. Well, we hope you did anyways, because the importance of hyperlinks came up for discussion among some of the web's best contemporary journalism critics on Saturday. In between thumbing smart quotes from Unconferenz into a smartphone, the Media Council twitter feed was lighting up with the following conversation, storified by Mathew Ingram.

This morning, Felix Salmon led his smart post today by recalling an article by Jonathan Stray on the Nieman Lab page from 2010. Stray has four purposes for the hyperlink that are as follows:

  • Links are good for storytelling.
  • Links keep the audience informed.
  • Links are a currency of collaboration.
  • Links enable transparency.

Salmon also adds importance of clear attribution and citation in journalistic tradition, but notes that as platforms, print and web differ in this regard. Writing hyperlinks into snappy web copy has a different style than a citation would in a single, static document that is printed. He wrote,

The problem is that a journalist never really knows whether their work is going to be read online or offline, even if they’re writing solely for the web. The story might get downloaded into an RSS reader, to be consumed offline. It might be emailed to someone with a Blackberry who can’t possibly be expected to open a hyperlink in a web browser. It might even get printed out and read that way.