Cite not link

I do have considerable sympathy for 1Thomas Crampton, when he discovered that all of his stories at the International Herald Tribune have been pulled from the web because of a merger with the New York Times.

So, what did the NY Times do to merge these sites?

They killed the IHT and erased the archives.

1- Every one of the links ever made to IHT stories now points back to the generic NY Times global front page.

2- Even when I go to the NY Times global page, I cannot find my articles. In other words, my entire journalistic career at the IHT – from war zones to SARS wards – has been erased.

At the same, though, I don’t have as much sympathy for Wikipedia losing its links to the same stories, as detailed by 2Crampton in a second posting.

The issue: Wikipedia – one of the highest traffic websites on the Internet – makes reference to a large number of IHT stories, but those links are now all dead. They need to delete them all and find new references or use another solution.

As I wrote in comments at Teleread:

I do have sympathy, I know I would be frustrated if my stories disappeared from the web, but at the same time, there is a certain level of karma about all of this.

How many times have webloggers chortled at the closure of another newspaper? How many times have webloggers gloated about how we will win over Big Media?

The thing is, when Big Media is gone, who will we quote? Who will we link? Where will the underlying credibility for our stories be found?

Isn’t this exactly what webloggers have wanted all along?

Isn’t this what webloggers have wanted, all along?

I have sympathy for a writer losing his work, though I assume he kept copies of his writings. If they can’t be found in hard copies of the newspaper, then I’m assuming the paper is releasing its copyright on the items, and that Mr. Crampton will be able to re-publish these on his own. That’s the agreement I have with O’Reilly: when it no longer actively publishes one of my works, the copyright is returned to me. In addition, with some of the books, we have a mutual agreement that when the book is no longer published, the work will be released to the public domain.

I don’t have sympathy for Wikipedia, though, because the way many citations are made at the site don’t follow Wikipedia’s citation policy. Links are a lazy form of citation. The relevant passage in the publication should be quoted in the Wikipedia article, matched with a citation listing the publication, author, title of the work, and publication—not a quick link to an external site over which Wikipedia has no control.

I’m currently fixing one of my stories, Tyson Valley, a Lone Elk, and the Bomb because the original material was moved, without redirection. But as I fix the article, what I’m doing is making copies of all of the material, for my own reference. Saving the web page is no different than making a photocopy of an article in the days before the web.

In addition, I will be adding a formal citation for the source, as well as the link, so if the article moves again, whoever reads my story will know how to search for the article’s new location. At a minimum, they’ll know where the article was originally found.

I’m also repackaging the public domain writing and images for serving at my site, again with a text citation expressing appreciations to the site that originally published the images.

By using this approach, the stories I consider “timeless”, in whatever context that word means in this ephemeral environment, would not require my constant intervention.

Authors posting to Wikipedia should be doing the same, and this policy should be enforced: provide a direct quote of relevant material (allowed under Fair Use), and provide a formal citation, in addition to the link. Or perhaps, instead of the link. Because when the newspapers disappear, they’ll have no reason to keep the old archives. No reason at all. And then, where will Wikipedia be?

1Crampton, Thomas, “Reporter to NY Times Publisher: You Erased My Career”, May 8, 2009.
2Crampton, Thomas, “Wikipedia Grappling with Deletion of”, thomascrampton. May 8, 2009.

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