Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Do you have "linkophobia?

This amazing story on the City Desk blog page of the Washington City Paper site got me thinking this morning about something: B2B media execs, do you authorize your editors to link to the competition? or to other media, in general? If the answer is "no", maybe it's time to rethink this policy.

More on the story mentioned above, and why it illustrates one of the weaknesses of "old-media-think" after the jump.

First, the story that started me thinking about this issue:

Erik Wemple: 
Washington Post editorial aide Stephen Lowman was at 14th and U on Saturday when the controversial snowball-fight-cum-police-indiscretion went down. He wasn't there on assignment--he was just taking it all in.
The "indiscretion" mentioned above involved a police officer in D.C. who exited his Hummer when his car was hit by snow during a snow ball fight, brandished a gun, failed to identify himself as a police officer, and only calmed down when more police arrived following calls that a man was waving around a gun.

The story continues: Lowman of the Post calls in the story to his paper; in the meantime photos and videos of the incident appear online; but when the Post story appears there is no mention of the photographic evidence as the Post's story only repeats the police department's line that the officer reacted properly and never produced his weapon -- again, despite photographic evidence to the contrary.

The blog post postulates that the real problem is "linkophobia":
Yet the reason why the Post screwed this up is that they all have linkophobia. If you link to an outlet---such as, God forbid, the Washington City Paper---you've lost. You got scooped and all your colleagues are going to look down on you. Linking is a huge sign of weakness---you just can't do it. Far better to, like, call a top police official, buy his version of events, and just place it in a post, regardless of the contradicting evidence that's already posted elsewhere.
Well, I have no clue if this is the real reason behind the fact that it took the Post several days to finally get the story right, but it does point to an interesting phenomenon: B2B magazines and their sites generally go through life in total denial of the competition -- it is verboten to mention a competing magazine unless absolutely necessary, and even worse to admit that another magazine may have scooped you, or may have a great story in its issue or web site.

But this is so counter to the way the Internet works that it is hard to believe the policy (spoken or unspoken) still exists. Part of this may simply be that editors generally have a low regard for the competition, but the other reason may be that few trade pubs are good aggregators of content.

What is your pubs policy? If you saw a link to the competition would you call out your editor?