20/20 #14 — Adding value: Links and sidebars

Links: Your key to on-line journalism

Why to link:

Three tips from Erica Mauter:

  • The currency of the internet is the link.
  • The internet way of “sourcing” is to link back to where you got your information from, whether you quote someone or were inspired by their ideas, or whatever. It’s netiquette.
  • Links NEED TO work correctly.

What to link:

Robert Niles writes lists three kinds of links:

  • Attribution — the government study you are quoting, the newspaper report you referred to, the source of information
  • Context — help for readers to understand the background of the story, such as a link to the history of the food stamp program in an article about food stamp cuts
  • “Easter eggs” — fun stuff and surprises for readers, but still related to the story

How, when and where to hyperlink within a news story by Robert Niles, February 15, 2008 in OJR

How to link:

Some programs have short-cuts, so that you can embed a link and your text is all pretty and blue. If you use these, then include a list of links at the end of the article or in your story documentation form, so that if one is broken, or entered with an error, your editor has another source for reference.

If you are writing in html, here’s how to insert a link:

<a href=”http://www.restofurl.com”>text that is hyperlinked</a>


Sidebars offer your readers added value by giving them something that doesn’t fit in the narrative flow of the article. Some examples:

  • links to other stories (especially other Daily Planet stories) that relate to the same topic
  • additional factual content
  • background
  • a side story or personal story
  • opposing viewpoints
  • ways to get involved with the story
  • contact information for elected official, the foodshelf, an advocacy group, etc.

Questions for discussion:

1) Take a look at the last story that you wrote. What links and/or sidebars would you now add?

2) Have you ever been RickRolled?

3) What are three questions or fears that you have about using links and sidebars?

©2008-2009 Mary Turck