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March 31, 2009, 8:27 a.m.

Do you have “links to nowhere”?

A quick thought that can’t fit into 140 characters, but isn’t quite a full blog post: Just because your online news story has words with blue underlines, that doesn’t mean you’re linking.

I was reminded of this by my local paper‘s online edition which — at least a little unintentional irony — today features a story on how journalism students are learning the new digital tools of the trade. Amid a sea of robolinks — automatically generated links to so-called Topic Pages (SEO-bait, really) — I noticed this:

johnharrisstrok

Of course they’re not really tracking John Harris editor of the excellent Politico. The Chicago-centric publishing system used by The Sun is tracking John Harris, former chief-of-staff for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. It’s a seemingly small error, but when more relevant terms in the article aren’t linked, it chips subtly but surely away at credibility with readers, especially digital natives, conversant in the language of linking.

Local newspapers can’t automate their way to success. Linking matters, and it takes humans.

POSTED     March 31, 2009, 8:27 a.m.
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