Links improve diversity and analytic depth

To the question “Is the Ash Cloud dangerous to flights?” Charlie Beckett writes that the honest answer is “I don’t know.” Journalism, tasked with sifting through complexity to find answers, is sometimes presented with a situation so chaotic that it defies the possiblity of deriving a correct answer. Beckett points to the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano as a perfect example of this type of event. But, buried in that chaotic ash, Beckett finds light in the “space of online.”

One of the positive aspects of digital journalism is that it allows the media to acknowledge this complexity. The space of online allows newsrooms to give a greater diversity of fact and opinion and more depth in analysis – if only by linking to sources.

Make sure to read Beckett’s full post, Complexity and the Media: Clegg and the Ash on the Polis Director’s Blog.

Image courtesy of Óli Jón via Flickr.

Context is personal

A single news item is only important to a reader if it makes sense within a larger context. An example

If you’ve been following the ongoing conversation about context in some journalism circles, there’s a good chance you weren’t compelled to view the example hidden above. For you, that context was superflous because of your personal knowledge and understanding of the topic.

If, on the other hand, this is the first time you’ve heard the idea that news items need context to be useful to readers, a summary of related posts might be helpful. The conversation

Every person who reads a news item, brings a unique set of life experiences and knowledge to put the news into some bigger story. Each reader also has a unique set of questions based on their ignorance of, and interest in, particular parts of that story.

One way to provide only the desired parts of a story for individual readers, might be to hide story elements until the reader clicks on a link to expand that part of the story. This is an old trick (shoddily implementod in this post) that might find new usefulness in this new context of … context.

I hoped to submit this post to Matt Thompson’s The Future of Context site, but technical requirements forced me to publish it here instead. Please follow the conversation about context happening on that blog to find out how journalists can create and deliver news in ways that can be more relevant and useful to readers than existing forms of storytelling.

ReadWriteWeb brings link context to AP news

The Associated Press recently put out a press release saying that over 500 have signed up for their AP Member Marketplace product. Here are a few sites that reported the news:

  • MediaPost gave us four paragraphs sans links.
  • Editor & Publisher wrote a bit more, again with no links.
  • WebProNews linked to the E&P piece and a semi-related Silicon Alley Insider article.
  • PaidContent finally links to the AP release and five of its own articles about the AP’s online efforts and a possible competitor.

Then comes Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb.

RWW’s 10 paragraphs full of context are supplemented with 12 embeded links (seven pointing to other sites) and a list of 5 related RWW items at the bottom. I won’t even mention the three screenshots and and a poll!

Take a look at just one paragraph from the article:

Three of the four links, in red, do not point to other RWW content.
Three of the four links, in red, point to content from other sites.

This is the kind of link context all modern journalists should strive to provide.