This is part of a series on how to Be a Better Journo. It’s intended to shame my colleagues in the blogosphere, solicit ideas from my peers on how we can all improve, and help guide noobs and youngsters into creating better digital journalism. [tweetmeme source=”jolieodell” only_single=false]
You shady-ass bitches have not been linking back.
Having been in at least 2 of the top 3 tech newsrooms, I can tell you that nothing chaps an editor’s heiny like breaking a story and not having his competitors link back, even when they pull facts and quotations from the original story like free-to-a-good-home puppies out of a cardboard box.
In journalism school — y’all went to J-school, right? — we were taught that every fact and opinion had to be attributed to someone.
Back in the pre-digital day, journos were simply the mouthpieces of truth. If you wanted to convey emotion or opinion, you either had to find a reputable source to say it, or you’d better get your ass over to the op/ed page. And if you wanted to tell just the facts, you’d better be prepared to have an expert tell them to you first. So, every quotation, every factoid, every bullet point had to be “according to” some report or said/admitted/confessed by some relevant public figure. As cleanliness is next to godliness, so attribution is next to objectivity; it is the one factor that keeps the Fourth Estate just pure enough to credibly tell all sides of the story.
These days, with the way that SEO and user traffic work, the way we attribute is through links. When you report on a study, you link back to the study, so’s people know you’re not just making shit up. When you quote a CEO, you link to the video/press release the quotation came from, unless it was given to you directly, in which case you note that, as well.
And when you take information from another journalist’s report, you jolly well link back to that report, too.
There are multiple reasons this is in your best interest, the first being that it saves you from looking like a story-scamming scumbag. Second, it saves you in the event of a retraction, in which case you can point a finger and say your source was wrong. Third, especially in the case of opinion and speculation, it allows you to maintain at least a modicum of objectivity. As in, “I’m objective, but Kara Swisher said these guys are doomed to failure by patent infringement lawsuit.”
And finally, it’s fair and right, which is the only reason you should need in the first place.
Worst case scenario: Users click the link and navigate away from your precious website. Oh no! Use the right HTML tags, dumbtard, and they’ll look at the original report in a new tab without navigating away from your story. Besides, your content should be compelling enough to keep the reader coming back anyhow, right?
Other worst case scenario: Your readers will realize that your story is not original reporting. Well fucking duh. Of course it’s not original reporting. Almost nothing is. Unless you’re Barbara Fucking Walters, you’re not really going to get the story straight from the horse’s mouth. Readers will likely understand this and accept it as long as you can make your story worth reading in some other way. Otherwise, you might want to find a new profession.
Link love is contagious. If you do it to others, they’ll do it to you. Eventually. Just don’t screw around with nofollow tags, because that makes you look like a stingy, Page Rank-obsessed douchebag.
If you want to be a better journo, link back.
image credit: Dr. Macro