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It's scary to think that the BBC's web content is already generating 10 million - yes this is not a typo - outbound links every month from its website and is now aiming to double that by 2013.
20 million outbound links which, if the BBC is doing its job as a public service organisation, will lead visitors to further pages of useful web content. Now, while there are disclaimers throughout the Beeb's website about the organisation not being responsible for the credibility and validity of external links, there is still a massive filtering process being undertaken as the content writers seek to substantiate the news and information.
In my view, this is a positive rather than a negative. Like Wikipedia, much of it will be subjective, with the responsibility being placed in the hands of the content writer or page editors. However, at the same time as releasing the link targets, the BBC has also included new guidelines regarding the type of links used by BBC journalists in their web articles, particularly in relation to science subjects.
Instead of providing a hyperlink to an academic journal, or scientific organisation's homepage, the link must be directly to the original content the journalist has sourced for their own article. While this doesn't directly influence the validity of the scientific content itself, it does place greater responsibility on journalists to consider 'source crediblity' - an theme I find myself constantly reminding my CIPR Advanced Certificate students to consider when looking at PR theories, models and commentary.
The fact that all reporters, not just the science specialists, will now have to show the source(s) on which they are basing their editorial, might require them to think a little harder and read a little deeper before crafting a news story. And that has to be good for both science and journalism.
Published 11th October, 2010