Properly citing sources is one of the fundamental rules of good journalism. It's important. How can you trust an article if you can't examine it's raw material and judge it for yourself?
Scientific articles are a great example: some research will be published in a peer-reviewed journal, press releases will be sent out and news articles duly written. Do these articles accurately represent the research? Did the journalists even look at the research paper, or did they just cut and paste from the press release? If you care, the only way to really find out is to go to the published paper and read it for yourself.
In this highly-connected, web-enabled age we live in, you'd think online news articles would just link to sources as standard practice, right? Haha. Nice one.
There are many reasons why articles are not linked to their sources. To name a few:
- Laziness. Journalists are busy, and linking is extra work.
- Fear. A lot of web sites are terrified of linking to other web sites and have explicit policies to restrict this. Precious readers might leave and not come back! The horror.... the horror...
- Dishonesty. The story might be based on some highly dodgy "research", "poll" or "survey", likely commissioned by someone with a vested interest in the outcome.
- Inertia. Printed news never had fancy-pants hyperlinks. Why should the online version?
The cost of all this is the continual, gradual erosion of trust - that most precious of currencies. A news outlet without the trust of it's readers has nothing.
So, until the news organisations all adjust to this new, connected world of ours, what can we do about it?
Do it ourselves, of course!
It's a place where we can all work together to add sources to articles that really should have had them in the first place.
Try it out.
Help us improve it.
Together we can make the web a better place!