What's Wrong With Daily Newspapers
I chastised the LA Times within the text of a recent blog item for never having links in stories on the web:
The LAT piece is typically link-free (Matt Welch seems to be the single person at the paper who understands how to write for the web),
Welch, the LAT's assistant editorial page editor, responded in the comments:
In defense of my colleagues, the problem isn't lack of knowledge, it's lack of 21st century publishing software, and the organizational will to acquire it. Believe it or not (and I choose not to, in order to maintain sanity), in the NEWLY UPDATED -- as in, updated in the last couple of months -- editing system that the newspaper uses, it is impossible to perform this magical task known as "inserting a hyperlink." The only possibility is to go in there *after* it is published, and hand-install a hyperlink into the publishing software. Since that is about as fun as putting a condom on after sex, it is rarely done, though you've just given me an idea about how we might be able to do more....
(Also, Tim Cavanaugh, to name one of many, is pretty fluent at writing on that interweb deal.)
Wow. The LAT actually has NEW publishing software that doesn't allow for hyperlinking. That software had to come pretty cheap, don't you think?
What genius at the paper was responsible for that decision, and how many other such old-school geniuses are there at papers across the country -- just as the management at those papers is mewling pitifully about losing readership?
Posted by aalkon at September 4, 2007 9:47 AM
I should hasten to add (and at the risk of shameless promotion), that we have a lot of linktastic content, especially in the Opinion section -- our two blogs, our daily web-only column, our week-long online debates, and our Blowback feature, in which critics of something we publish can respond a greater length (and in greater hyperlinky detail -- see this) than a 250-word Letter to the Editor.
Posted by: Matt Welch at September 4, 2007 8:02 AM
What cracks me up the most is when there's an LAT story about a website or web phenomena, but no link. I love that.
Posted by: darleene at September 4, 2007 5:07 PM
Yeah, that drives me nuts too. Although some sites go overboard with the links -- like on Salon, every time someone mentions a very general word like kids or divorce or something, it will link to some long-ago essay on the subject, which is kind of gratuitous.
Posted by: Pat Saperstein at September 4, 2007 5:55 PM
What piece of software doesn't support the insertion of links? How hard can it really be to manually install a hyperlink?
Posted by: Marshall at September 5, 2007 9:39 AM
The Daily News is no better. Just look for one outside link to a source on Scott Wolf's USC blog.
Posted by: BoiFromTroy at September 5, 2007 9:47 AM
Although some sites go overboard with the links -- like on Salon, every time someone mentions a very general word like kids or divorce or something, it will link to some long-ago essay on the subject, which is kind of gratuitous.
I want to get on record saying I think the way Salon does links should be the standard for publishing. (Stylistically, that is, I don't know how they put a page together technically.) I never understood the knock against using too many in-house links: If you've got a substantial chunk of institutional history you're a fool not to make the most of it. As long as you don't skimp on the off-site links (which Salon doesn't) you're doing a pure value-add.
The linking policy that's really supremely awful is the spider-linking that is done by many newspapers, wherein phrases like "David Petraeus" or "sub-prime mortgages" just get automatically linked to God-knows-where-because-no-human-has-ever-clicked-here. This is used by the WashPost and many other papers, and it's really lousy. Unless of course Tribune decides we should start doing it, in which case I'd like to get on record saying spider-linking is simply fabtrabulous.
Posted by: Tim Cavanaugh at September 5, 2007 11:01 AM
> I want to get on record saying
> I think the way Salon does
> links should be the standard
> for publishing.
And I want to go on record as saying it's hard to believe we're reading these words from a graduate of Suck, where inane off-site links often greatly diminished the impact (if not to say clarity) of the essays.
Even in those days, the reader had Yahoo and Alta vista and similar tools for investigating the breadth of the web, excursions which were no more or less revelatory than those in the articles. They were like a schoolteacher reminding a second grader to have fun at recess, or a college dean suggesting that a freshman try to enjoy some beer on Saturday night after the big game.
This twitchiness, combined with the inexplicable habit of the page design people to use only the center third of my expensive computer monitor (a senseless wickedness that surrounds these very words), gave the impression that you guys thought you were publishing for your Dad's generation. By gum, you were going to be columnists no matter how inconvenient for the reader; and just like George Will, you were going to patronize the reader with obscure, poorly-selected allusions.
God, I hated that shit.
(Re: Institutional/catalog links, you're right.)
(And I always loved Terry Colon.)
Posted by: Crid at September 5, 2007 10:39 PM