Why we link: #J361 presentation on curation

The link, or the ability to create a web of relationships between content, facts, and ideas, has fundamentally changed journalism. What follows is a recommended set of reading, I stand on the shoulders of giants, for those in Suzi Steffen’s Reporting 1 class I had the fortune to talk with this afternoon. I’ll try to add perspective when I can, but I’ve got to rush off shortly.

Jay Rosen, who you should follow on Twitter if you don’t already, lays an excellent foundation:

Ryan Sholin breaks down the argument for linking into five parts. Basically, journalists should be responsible citizens of the web. They have responsibility to their readers to provide as much information as they can bring together, responsibility to build bridges between the different parts of their online community, and responsibility to point readers in the direction of the right information when the journalists don’t immediately have the answer.

One point I touched on and want to reiterate is linking is a process of showing your work. This is fundamentally a Good Thing. Both Sean Sullivan and Paul Balcerak agree. In the age of newspapers, buggies, and clapboard houses, the reader was forced to make the assumption that the publication fact-checked and caught all of their errors. Hyperlinking text inherently means that the reader can then go and check out what you’re linking to. If you’re writing a piece with facts you want to substantiate, you can link to the source of every one of those facts. In fact, I agree that it’s “suspect for journos not to link whenever possible.” Making the reporting process transparent builds trust between the publication and the reader, and trust builds brand.

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Ethos behind Link Assist

Announcing a Publish2 plugin for WordPress

On Tuesday, I was quite pleased to announce the first formal release of the Publish2 WordPress plugin. With the 1.1 version, journalists on Publish2 can easily add their link journalism to the sidebar of their blog, add a reading list much like I have on my own website, or have simple, intuitive access to their curated links at the point when they’re most likely to need them the most: when writing a story.

Ok, enough with the public relations speak. That last bit is what I’m really excited about. We’re calling it Link Assist, and I’m itching to write about some of the the philosophy driving it.

I digress to set the scene. Link Assist is a widget-y bit of functionality that lives in the sidebar of your edit post page within WordPress (where you’d actually write a post). Getting it set up is a simple process of dropping your link journalism URL (this is mine) into “Your Profile” under “Users” and hitting the checkbox for Link Assist. Once you’ve done this, Link Assist will load automatically and in the background every time you set up to write a new post.

This is where the magic happens.

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Provide links to context, please

In an article published today, the Daily Emerald reveals that Sam Dotters-Katz has proposed changes to the ASUO Constitution (which I would link to but it’s apparently not available online):

Dotters-Katz and Papailiou’s proposal would add two justices to the existing five-member court and require it to submit rules changes to the Senate for approval. It would also re-establish the Elections Board as an independent entity to avoid conflicts of interest that Papailiou said were endemic under previous administrations.

There’s something wrong with this picture. I’m not talking about the proposed changes, rather it’s in the way that the information is presented. Reporting in the “traditional” news brief format, the reader (me) is left more confused than informed. There is almost zero context associated with the article, and I haven’t the faintest idea what the information presented actually means.

Such is the old paradigm. Newspapers are dead; long live newspapers. I’m of the opinion however that the new paradigm, the one that everyone’s afraid of, is actually improving journalism. Go figure.

For instance, if the Daily Emerald had the innovation, talent, and tools, I would have been presented an array of options to expand my knowledge about Dotters-Katz, how the ASUO runs, and why he proposes a change to the Constitution. There would likely be a list of previous posts on this issue, a small topical wiki in the sidebar synthesizing the pulse of ASUO, and curation of student blogosphere reactions to the announcement (like this one and one from the Oregon Commentator), among other forms of information.

Instead, the readers get nothing better than a press release and I have to use Google, coincidentally, to educate myself further. Google is taking the place of the news organization largely because the newspapers are flailing. Get with the times, please, and use the infinitely useful and flexible platform the internet gives you to empower your community with information.

Oh wait, the Daily Emerald runs College Publisher. Make sure your CMS is open source, and then innovate.