Link to original sources

Ben Goldacre for The Guardian on linking to the original source of material (via df).

Why don’t journalists link to primary sources? Whether it’s a press release, an academic journal article, a formal report or perhaps (if everyone’s feeling brave) the full transcript of an interview, the primary source contains more information for interested readers, it shows your working, and it allows people to check whether what you wrote was true. Perhaps linking to primary sources would just be too embarrassing.

This is one of those things that pisses me off to no end, especially with professional journalists. A couple months ago, I debunked that list of NASA bad science movies because it set off my bullshit radar. It was obvious that a list like that needed an original source if it was true. But that didn’t stop dozens of well-known news organizations from regurgitating the list without question. The web is fundamentally based on hypertext and interconnectedness, how hard is it to link to something?

Linking to sources is such an easy thing to do and the motivations for avoiding links are so dubious, I’ve detected myself using a new rule of thumb: if you don’t link to primary sources, I just don’t trust you.

That rule goes for everyone, not just journalists… give credit where credit is due. Users of Tumblr and Ffffound are particularly bad in terms of original sources. If I come across something I like on one of those sites, it usually takes considerable effort to discover who actually made it.

Of course, with all of the link sharing that goes on, we get another problem: sourcing sources, or indicating where you discovered your link. Justin Blanton was lamenting the lack of “via’s” today. It gave me a tinge of linker’s guilt, because I’ve borrowed his links on more than one occasion without credit. Vias are one of those things that I tend to be bad with — it’s often a result of having more than thirty tabs open and not remembering where they all originated. Sure, it’s not as important as linking to the original but a little link-love never hurts.

Videogames as journalism

Can videogames be journalism? A brief look at Newsgames: Journalism at Play, the new book from Ian Bogost, Simon Ferrari and Bobby Schweizer.

“Games allow us to address systems instead of stories,” Dr. Bogost said in an interview. And, in some ways, they can offer more depth. People often search for simple answers to broad topics like the Gulf oil spill or the 2008 financial crisis, but in reality both were the result of a confluence of failures and events. Games can help to convey that complexity. “In particular, they can offer this experience of how something works rather than a description of key events and players,” Dr. Bogost says.

SEO optimized headline

Gene Weingarten on the current state of print journalism and its bastardization online.

Call me a grumpy old codger, but I liked the old way better. For one thing, I used to have at least a rudimentary idea of how a newspaper got produced: On deadline, drunks with cigars wrote stories that were edited by constipated but knowledgeable people, then printed on paper by enormous machines operated by people with stupid hats and dirty faces.

The article skewers the online practice of writing headlines for machines, rather than readers. A good headline will likely garner just as much attention after being picked up by a human, and subsequently blogged, liked, retweeted and carrier-pigeoned, as it would from being a top search query.