Linking out in newspaper stories is editor’s digital training goal

For my Digital Ninja School belt in Digital Publishing, I am determined to get better at linking.

In the words of Chris March, links are not only about creating good SEO – they are there to create a better user experience for our readers.

Why shouldn’t we give readers easy access to previous stories we’ve written on the same topic? Or a quick way to get to the website of the organization or business we’re talking about if they wish to check it out?

In the words of Steve Buttry, linking is good journalism. It shows honesty, transparency, attribution and context.

I practiced some linking for this story about a bullied Middletown who hung out with one of her role models and this story about a high-end furniture store in West Hartford. Because we have written about the bullied teen and her struggles many times in the past couple of years, it was easy to find past stories on our website to link to.

The West Hartford News story contains a few more “subject links” – links to topics or businesses – and a link to a story from another news outlet.

Even simple things like press releases that we turn into stories can have links. Check out this story about the Book Bower in Middletown participating in World Book Night. It was slight overkill to hyperlink the Book Bower multiple times, and I won’t do that in future stories, but at least one link to World Book Night and the store’s website will help readers quickly learn more about both, if they so wish.

The most important thing I realized, however, is that to be successful in using links on our website, I need to enlist the help of the entire staff.

I could spend all day adding links to stories, but if I have help from the reporters, the process will be faster and more accurate.

So when submitting a story, whether through our content management system or via email, my reporters are now asked to include the URL to their most recent story on the same topic if they have written about it before. If they are referencing other background information, they must include URLs to the stories it came from as well.

If they are citing information from another news outlet, they must include the direct URL for the story they are citing in addition to the name of the news outlet. If they including information about a YouTube video, they must provide the embed code for that video for insertion in the story (i.e. students win safe driving video contest).

And finally, when mentioning an organization or town agency, the reporters are asked to submit a direct link to that agency.

With this, I hope to encourage the entire staff to think about links while they are in the process of writing their stories, not just counting on an editor to dig up links in the middle of the night. The goal is that this group effort will create an overall better reader experience at www.middletownpress.com.

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