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Don't just write about the news -- link to it!

Robert Niles
Published: January 29, 2013 at 12:08 PM (MST)
Shouldn't journalists have made a rule by now that requires if you're writing a story about a webpage, your story should include a link to that webpage?

Apparently not.

Last week, the social service club my daughter helped start at her high school started an online petition asking the school district to prohibit using district funds to buy supplies from retailers, such as Walmart, that also sell firearms. This was the club's attempt to do something tangible to stop the spread of guns -- and gun violence -- in America. (Personally, I think the policy would be a far more effective strategy in distancing the local schools from job-killing, wage-depressing -- and thus local-school-harming -- Walmart, which is opening its first store within the district's boundaries later this year.)

The Los Angeles Times noted the petition in blog post that appeared on both the Times' website and its Pasadena Sun edition. Take a look. Notice anything missing?

How about a link to the petition?

Hey, there is an automated link for Walmart -- that directs to a 404 "page not found" error.

Newspapers have been running websites for more than 15 years. It shouldn't be too much to expect that newspapers train, support and insist on basic linking skills. If someone's interested enough in this petition to read the story, they're likely interested enough to want to see the petition itself. Give people relevant links, and you help earn their trust as a guide through the information overload online.

Yet too many newspapers continue to promote an internal culture that the paper should be a community's single source of information, just like they were for years before that whole Internet thing appeared. But it's not like a refusal to link outside the paper's website is going to keep people from realizing that there's a larger Web out there. It's simply going to encourage people to find better news sources online -- ones that aren't afraid to link to other, newsworthy websites.

Robert Niles also can be found at

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