Linking has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to stories posted on sites that adhere to journalistic values. Adding links is a great way to enhance the readers’ experience while visiting your site as they can roam to related content as they please. But, this does provide the opportunity for them to roam and never come back, as well as having them think you endorse the sites they are led to.
I agree with the principles and values set forth in the Poynter piece, but one thing clearly stuck out to me. If you plan on disclosing that links are representative of their owners and not your organization, you should clearly not add links to sites that deter from your standards – regardless of how supportive the content is. But I do agree with the disclosure aspect, especially related to user-added material. You don’t have traffic without the users, and allowing them to contribute to the forum furthers their loyalty.
With that said, I think every site should participate in some sort of linking as the most important issue is keeping traffic coming to your site by providing them with a great experience. Adhering to the suggestions in the art of linking article in regards to the kind of links to post will help this. Nothing is more frustrating for readers than clicking on links that are unrelated, or having to do work to find related content after bring brought to a homepage. This reminds me of a tip I got from a former co-worker who said when a customer asks you for something, walk them towards it, don’t point them in the general direction of the item. I also think that having both inline links and link lists are great for stories. Inline links show readers a direct relationship to the point in the story they are at, and link lists add content to the overall idea stories convey.
Along with losing site users thanks to the links you provide and not endorsing materials you might link to, The Thorny Question of Linking gives a great example of what can go wrong when providing links. The example with Kobe Bryant’s rape case was a difficult case to deal with because there is no right or wrong answer with the reasoning provided. But there is some uneasiness that might be created by providing the victim’s name. I agree with Robert Niles’ notion of being consistent. If you accept the fact that people will find it anyways, provide the link. BUT if you choose to take a stand against it, then don’t.