Why don’t journalists link to primary sources? Whether it’s a press release, an academic journal article, a formal report or perhaps (if everyone’s feeling brave) the full transcript of an interview, the primary source contains more information for interested readers, it shows your working, and it allows people to check whether what you wrote was true. Perhaps linking to primary sources would just be too embarrassing.
This is one of those things that pisses me off to no end, especially with professional journalists. A couple months ago, I debunked that list of NASA bad science movies because it set off my bullshit radar. It was obvious that a list like that needed an original source if it was true. But that didn’t stop dozens of well-known news organizations from regurgitating the list without question. The web is fundamentally based on hypertext and interconnectedness, how hard is it to link to something?
Linking to sources is such an easy thing to do and the motivations for avoiding links are so dubious, I’ve detected myself using a new rule of thumb: if you don’t link to primary sources, I just don’t trust you.
That rule goes for everyone, not just journalists… give credit where credit is due. Users of Tumblr and Ffffound are particularly bad in terms of original sources. If I come across something I like on one of those sites, it usually takes considerable effort to discover who actually made it.
Of course, with all of the link sharing that goes on, we get another problem: sourcing sources, or indicating where you discovered your link. Justin Blanton was lamenting the lack of “via’s” today. It gave me a tinge of linker’s guilt, because I’ve borrowed his links on more than one occasion without credit. Vias are one of those things that I tend to be bad with — it’s often a result of having more than thirty tabs open and not remembering where they all originated. Sure, it’s not as important as linking to the original but a little link-love never hurts.