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The Longest Now

Primary sources matter. How do we convince journalists to cite them?
Wednesday March 14th 2012, 3:18 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Blogroll,citation needed,indescribable

Some legal and political bloggers have written recently about an Arizona bill which reportedly “legalizes firing employees because they use contraceptives”. That’s the sort of claim which I always read with an invisible “citation needed” tag floating in the air next to it. But it took a frustrating few minutes to track the bill down; no posts linked to it, and few bothered to mention it by name.

Even the page about the bill on VoteSmart (a lovely site which focuses on tracking the progress of a bill and its changes/votes over time) has only a tiny, obfuscated link to the actual bill text. (I know that the raw bill isn’t the primary focus of that site, but I still expect it to be clearly linked from the top of the page about it.)

At any rate, here is the text-with-diffs of Arizona House bill 2625, “an act amending sections 20-826, 20-1057.08, 20-1402, 20-1404 and 20-2329, Arizona revised statutes; relating to health insurance.” The changes start at page 8.

It does not in fact legalize “firing employees” or other discrimination; but it does redact a special clause expressly prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of using contraceptives, which former lawmakers saw fit to include next to every description of how religious institutions should be allowed to opt out of providing coverage for them. I am certain that the history of the inclusion of that clause would be interesting; I also find it unlikely that every state has such a similarly explicit reminder embedded in their healthcare laws.

So: deep linking to primary sources is important; not just to better inform readers, but also to find out if what you are writing is true. When most modern journalists were cutting their teeth in their first newsroom, deeplinks to source material within an article were impossible. Now they are a matter of a few minutes’ research. How do we reemphasize the value of this work?

I know exactly what you mean. Plus, when you create something, people just post it without linking to the source. For example, yesterday I was obsessing over an infographic labeled The History of Science Fiction” but the person who posted it didn’t link to the source. A quick Google search showed me the original graphic source, but the fact that people just repost without linking is just rude!

Comment by Jess 03.26.12 @ 10:14 am

And then you go and mention it here without providing a source 🙂

Comment by Jonas 04.02.12 @ 8:07 pm

Bad Behavior has blocked 190 access attempts in the last 7 days.