The Sciences

Journalism's Unbearable Paucity of Links

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorApr 3, 2009 12:54 PM

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It's bad enough when print magazines fail to use links when they migrate stories online. But it's inexusable for online magazines. In this case, I'm referring specifically to Yale's Environment 360. While reading Keith Schneider's piece on Australia's growing concerns about climate change, I found it so annoying that I couldn't click to obvious avenues of related information within the story. For anyone interested in drought or Australia's recent wildfires, there were a number of good sources to follow up on--if only the links were embedded. This makes no sense when you examine the rest of the magazine's website. For example, the sidebar on the right contains a potpourri of links--for blogs, institutional resources, topics, and geographical regions. The editors do make use of social media and display comments for articles. Otherwise, the site is pretty bare bones for an online publication: there's no multimedia features, no ancillary spin-off content, like podcasts or web chats with authors. Worst of all, there are no blogs! I know the staff is skeletal but hey, there's always the intern. Despite these shortcomings, Yale Environment 360 has recruited many top-rate journalists and academic heavy-hitters as contributors. And it's on the media radar--a recent interview with New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert bounced around the blogosphere. But it's the absence of any article links that is a head-scratcher. They are the lifeblood of online magazines, such as Slate. Links (and to a much greater extent, blogs) are also the easiest and quickest way to increase your web presence. It's unfathomable for an issues-related magazine publishing solely online to have such a static web design. I suppose what bothers me most is that Yale Environment 360, with its thoughtful analysis and dispatches filed by high-profile contributors, has the potential to be a much greater intellectual and journalistic force. But a print product slapped online won't do it.

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