Learning to love links

Clyde Bentley | University of Missouri

The major difference between a Web story and a print story is that each word in the Web story has the potential for two meanings, the face meaning and the hyperlink. The hyperlink should take the reader to a site that expands on the story in some way – a definition, an earlier story or an alternative view.

The classic example of good routine use of hyperlinks is the baseball story that notes the batter was called out on the infield fly rule even though the shortstop dropped the ball. A baseball fan needs no other explanation, but a simple link on the words “infield fly rule” can make non-fans comfortable with the story. (Turnabout for baseball fans: The offside rule in soccer.)

Today there is no reason that a reader should not have access to a photo of everyone mentioned, a way to contact key people or organizations in the story, definitions of terms and the words of critics, experts or simply other media outlets. No reader should leave an online story with unaddressed questions – if the story doesn’t say it all, give the reader a place to go for more.

Teaching exercise:

Divide the class into teams of 3 to 5. Give each team the same story - preferably something very current.

Each team has 10 minutes to add as many links as possible to the story. They can go to absurd lengths that turn the whole story blue with hyperlinks.

After the 10 minutes, count which team got the most links, but more importantly go through the story and examine what links everyone made. Discuss which links were most appropriate for the story and what number of links the story should have carried.

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