Linking plays a huge role in creating the web experience in that it allows readers to access to awesome unexpected information that could normally not fit in a print or broadcast item in itself. The good thing or maybe the not so good thing is that the standard of the content in the link does not necessarily have to be that of the standard of the blog. So the question is where does ethics come in when it comes to linking? If so how can you link ethically?
Well, personally I think that there are some question journalists or bloggers should run through their mind before making a link to another website which are:
Is it relevant to my audience?
Will it affect the credibility of my blog?
If it is found to have factual errors must I warn my viewers about it?
How will it affect my loyalties?
What is the source of information in that blog?
And the questions go on…
OK let’s put this issue in a more practical context… let’s say, your blog is mainly known for breaking news and your competitor has posted a blog relating to a rumor that your current Senator is engaged. What you know about her is that her husband who was the former Senator passed away and the seat was given to her as a humanitarian gesture. She has young children with whom she has done her very best to keep away from the limelight and she is finishing her term, with which she has served quietly, and is not a candidate for the next election.
In addition, the content in the link lacks names of the sources of the information and you’ve noticed that that particular blogger tends to make errors in many of his/her blogs despite being popular.
So what to do?
It’s a story that’s bound to attract attention however I personally won’t link the post as it may not be relevant to my audience. This is because my audience may be more interested in the welfare of the candidates for the next election then that of the current Senator.Not to mention the fact that she has also not been buzzing in the media.
Secondly, because the content in the link lacks the identification of the sources of the information, I feel like the link may compromise the credibility of my blog.
In terms of errors, I could always confirm the accuracy of the post with the office of the Senator or even the blogger himself/herself. However, I would still not link it because of the other two reasons mentioned above.
Lastly, as much as the Senator is a public figure and has fewer rights to control information about herself, her children, on the other hand, still have privacy rights. Meaning that the link may violate their privacy causing unnecessary harm to them.
This was just a practical example on how a journalist can approach linking and digital media. What do you think?