_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Cross-referencing the news

Frank Rich has a very good NY Times column today about the situation in Iraq. (Which gets more depressing every time my attention is jolted back to it.)

What caught my eye was that the column is heavily hyperlinked -- I count 28 links within the text. (Sorry if you can't read it because you don't have TimesSelect.) I've seen links in Rich's articles before, but not for other columnists. Nick Kristof has a very print-style web address simply written out in the text; you can click it, but it's not the same thing.

So this appears to be a personal initiative of Frank Rich. It's quite effective, too -- saying that the Pentagon is sending 1,500 emergency reinforcements to Anbar province feels a lot more real when he links to the news article about it. There's plenty of linking to Times articles, but he references other publications and government documents, too. Clicking through to the State Department's "Iraq Weekly Status Report" is interesting, if more than a tad rose-colored-glasses.

The Times really should be doing this a lot more, at the very least in their editorial content. It's my vague impression that TimesSelect has a been a bit of a disappointment so far (it has certainly taken their columnists out of the online conversation); this is the sort of extra service that would do a lot more to justify it. Rich has already taken it upon himself, but the paper has armies of fact checkers who go through the material that goes into print. The editors should simply hire a few more with that TimesSelect dough and ask them to go the extra step of linking online-available sources to the text they back up. That kind of extensive referencing that opens up our browsing experience would help keep the traditional media distinguished from blogs and such, and I'd pay for it.

No comments: