Edward J. Delaney has an article up at the Nieman Journalism Lab praising New York Times columnist Frank Rich for his willingness to do one of those little things that makes a big difference -- providing embedded links within the body of his online copy. I know, this is hardly revolutionary stuff...but it's worth mentioning that Rich is the ONLY op-ed columnist at the Times that bothers to adhere to this practice: "Not Brooks nor Cohen nor Collins nor Dowd nor Friedman nor Herbert nor Kristof nor Kristol nor Krugman. (The lone exception: Charles M. Blow, whom the Times calls its 'visual Op-Ed columnist.')"
More of Rich's fellow columnists should join him in providing links, especially since the New York Times, according to Rich, does not impose the sort of "bureaucratic procedure" on their writers that would be an impediment to the practice. I've always felt that providing the occasional link is both a value add and a critical means of giving credit to the writers who spur inspiration, commentary, and inquiry. Rich clearly recognizes this as well:
Rich says his linking is as much about backing up his argument as it is about adding background. If one's argument is only as good as one's facts, Rich sends you to his facts. "Now, sometimes it's unlinkable material," he says. "But why not give the reader, if he or she wants to, the opportunity to see the sources, or a source, when it's available? It helps bulletproof the column, because if they say 'He must be making that up,' they can look and see -- here's the source, take a look and judge it for yourself....If I'm citing a figure, at the most banal level, from the Labor Department or a poll or an economic report, [why not] link to the whole document it comes from?"
As much as I'd like to see the New York Times embracing this policy (and, like Rich, I would accept those empty-calorie link-outs that bedevil so many pages (RICH: "As a reader, I can't stand the links where if the link is 'Barack Obama,' and you click the link and it's Barack Obama's official campaign page."), I'd like to indulge in a pet project of mine and issue a call to "America's Oldest Journal Covering the Newspaper Industry" - Editor And Publisher. For far too long, Editor and Publisher -- an otherwise excellent source of information -- has eschewed this practice, to their detriment. I beseech you, E&P: follow the lead of your bloggers, and tear down your firewall!
PREVIOUSLY, ON THE HUFFINGTON POST:
Someone told me just this afternoon, "Well, that makes Frank Rich a blogger, doesn't it?" An hour or so later, Rachel Sklar hit me up to remind me: that's what she said!
Frank Rich, Blogger [HuffPo]