Hyperlinking in Canadian journalism (Case study, IPBES report)

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services global assessment gives us a window into Canadian journalism.

Quality online publishing requires responsible hyperlinking. And quality journalism requires good linking too. If news orgs are serious about being good partners in mitigating misinformation, they need to link meaningfully to relevant references and especially science-based organizations.1

On May 5th the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, aka IPBES, released a preliminary summary of a report on the state of the environment and the accelerating rate of species extinction that threatens one million species. The full report will be published later this year. It’s a global assessment and an important report. And it earned a lot of media coverage. And it’s an opportunity for me to check in and see how Canadian journalism is doing, along a very specific dimension: hyperlinking.

When news orgs publish about the IPBES report, they should link to it, and related webpages. Here’s my rubric for assessing the quality of those hyperlinks, and the quality of these journalism orgs, along this dimension:

  1. does the article link to relevant IPBES report resources,
  2. are the links proportional, well-formed, and findable.

So based on this rubric, and my Google searching skills, here’s how some news publishers did.23

A round up of Canadian news orgs and how they did

TLDR: legacy news orgs still don’t know how to publish on the internet. The Tyee and The Narwhal did a good job.4

Global News, grade D

Global news has published six URLs with articles and videos. In these six dispatches there are 20 internal links, and 18 advertising links. These advertising links only include ads inside of the main article container. Ads that are in the sidebar, header, or footer, or “More stories” at end of article were not counted. There was 1 link to the Dropbox media resources . And there was 1 link to a 2018 WWF report. And there was 1 link to Natural Resources Canada.

All in all, the relevant link was buried, and it was to a Dropbox URL, which has no value for the IPBES which actually produced the information. All links open automatically in a new tab, which is less than ideal.

1. May 6, 2019 by Seth Borenstein: 6 internal links, 10 advertising links (includes videos, excludes “More Stories” at end of article), 1 link to Dropbox resources: https://globalnews.ca/news/5243622/un-extinction-biodiversity-report/
2. May 6, 2019 by Global News: 1 advertising link: https://globalnews.ca/video/5247388/un-report-humans-speeding-up-1-million-species-extinction
3. May 6, 2019 by Global News: 1 advertising link: https://globalnews.ca/video/5244906/scientists-say-its-not-too-late-to-save-biodiversity-after-release-of-report-on-possible-extinction-of-species
4. May 9, 2019 by by Global News: 1 advertising link, 1 internal link: https://globalnews.ca/video/5257979/humans-have-put-1-million-species-at-risk-of-extinction-un-report
5. May 11, 2019 by Jane Gerster: 11 internal links, 2 external links (to WWF report 2018, and Natural Resources Canada), 1 advertising link: https://globalnews.ca/news/5262131/canada-environment-biodiversity-protection/
6. May 9, 2019 by Mike Postovit: 2 internal links, 4 advertising links: https://globalnews.ca/news/5251713/kingston-reaction-un-plant-animal-extinction-report/

The Globe and Mail, grade F

The Globe and Mail has published 7 URLs that relate to the IPBES report, although several are simply letters to the editor. In total there are 5 advertising links, 3 internal links, and 0 relevant links to any relevant external resources.

1. May 6, 2019 by Ivan Semeniuk: 2 advertising links: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-nature-in-unprecedented-decline-around-the-globe-landmark-study-says/
2. May 6, 2019 by The Globe and Mail: 1 advertising link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/technology/science/video-scientists-warn-a-million-species-at-risk-of-extinction/
3. May 7, 2019 by The Globe and Mail: 1 internal link, 1 advertising link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/article-to-preserve-our-species-the-planet-is-our-greatest-ally/
4. May 7, 2019 Letters: 0 links: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/letters/article-may-7-too-many-humans-plus-other-letters-to-the-editor/
5. May 8, 2019 Letters: 1 internal link, 1 advertising link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/letters/article-may-8-threatened-extinction-on-a-planetary-scale-plus-other/
6. May 9, 2019 Letters: 1 internal link: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/letters/article-may-9-a-canadian-who-inspired-the-world-plus-other-letters-to-the/
7. May 10, 2019 by Margaret Wente, “Don’t panic over mass extinction”: behind paywall: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-dont-panic-over-mass-extinction/

The Tyee, grade A-

The Tyee has only published one article that references the IPBES report. In it there are 2 advertising links. But there are a whopping 13 external links including several to IPBES report pages, other news organizations and other science organizations like Nature, which is awesome. I took away points for too many links – I think footnotes or other devices should be used instead, in order to retain readability.

1. May 9, 2019 by Mitchell Anderson: 13 external links: https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2019/05/09/Traditional-Economics-Biodiversity-Natural-Accounting/

Calgary Herald, grade F

The Calgary Herald published 5 articles that mention the UN report. In those articles there are 5 internal links (I include 2 links to the National Post), 1 link to The Conversation.

1. May 6, 2019, by The Associated Press: 2 links to the National Post (internal, really) : https://calgaryherald.com/news/world/united-nations-to-offer-first-report-on-global-biodiversity/wcm/472b69d5-871b-469d-a792-fdc96fd22275
2. May 6, 2019 By The Canadian Press: 0 links: https://calgaryherald.com/pmn/news-pmn/canada-news-pmn/un-environment-report-has-strong-message-for-canada-co-author/wcm/2d32d261-3ab5-4d2f-88d8-f76e99c441d2
3. May 7, The Associated Press: 0 links: https://calgaryherald.com/pmn/business-pmn/climate-change-missing-as-us-defends-arctic-policy/wcm/b57ef87f-54eb-4aab-a813-303387771576
4. May 10, 2019 by Meghan Potkins: 3 internal links: https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/calgary-zoo-ceo-says-it-cant-be-business-as-usual-following-un-report-on-species-extinction-rates
5. May 11, 2019 by The Conversation, but misattributed to The Canadian Press: 1 link to The Conversation: https://calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-lets-work-on-climate-not-weaponizing-the-constitution (The original article actually has many good, relevant links: https://theconversation.com/work-on-climate-not-weaponizing-the-constitution-116710)

Calgary Sun, grade F

The Calgary Sun rehashed the Calgary Herald articles and included no new links.

1. https://calgarysun.com/technology/extinction-crisis-nature-in-worst-shape-in-human-history-un-report-says/wcm/a807a1e8-5900-47f8-9ddc-18d7f84d3057
2. https://calgarysun.com/news/local-news/calgary-zoo-ceo-says-it-cant-be-business-as-usual-following-un-report-on-species-extinction-rates/wcm/2028d23a-cae6-4cca-909b-1bd70a124cc6
3. https://calgarysun.com/opinion/letters/letters-to-the-editor-may-8-2/wcm/8bfa6054-67da-47bc-ad9c-5c1fc64c455b
4. https://calgarysun.com/opinion/letters/letters-may-11-stop-lecturing-us-minister-mckenna

The Star, grade C

The Star has published 5 dispatches that make reference to the IPBES report. Of these, only one story made relevant links out, including to the report publisher. However, the other articles mostly linked back internally to this article, and that’s better than nothing. So they get a passing grade. But barely.

1. May 6, 2019 by Brad Plumer, The New York Times: 3 ads, 3 internal links: https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2019/05/06/civilization-accelerating-extinction-altering-natural-world-at-unprecedented-pace-un-report-says.html
2. May 6, 2019, by Kate Allen: 3 relevant external links, 6 internal links, 1 advertisement: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/05/06/earths-natural-diversity-is-at-great-risk-but-there-is-still-time-to-save-it-un-report-says.html
3. May 6, 2019 by Bob Weber, The Canadian Press: 3 advertisements, 3 internal links : https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2019/05/06/from-killer-whales-to-caribou-un-environment-report-has-strong-message-for-canada.html
4. May 7, 2019, by Jennifer Wells: 6 internal links, 2 ads: https://www.thestar.com/business/opinion/2019/05/07/biodiversity-warning-shows-the-need-for-economic-change.html
5. May 8, 2019, by Vinay Menon: 3 ads, 4 internal links: https://www.thestar.com/entertainment/opinion/2019/05/08/societys-stupidest-are-on-a-roll-and-george-clooney-cant-turn-the-tide-alone.html

The Narwhal, grade B+

The Narwhal has only published one article (at the time of this publication) that mentions this UN report. However, they link to an authoritative UN news page, which links to all of the report resources. I docked them points for also linking to Facebook, and for overlooking linking to directly to IPBES.

May 8, 2019 by Sarah Cox: 2 external links, 4 internal links : https://thenarwhal.ca/feds-asked-to-step-in-to-save-endangered-spotted-owls-from-canadian-extinction/

Some resources related to the IPBES report

  1. https://www.ipbes.net/news/ipbes-global-assessment-preview
  2. https://www.ipbes.net/news/Media-Release-Global-Assessment
  3. https://www.iucnredlist.org/
  4. https://sdg.iisd.org/news/ipbes-previews-2019-global-assessment-report-on-biodiversity/
  5. Final Media Materials Global Assessment Launch (Dropbox)
  6. IPBES Assessment Reports
  7. Wikipedia entry on the report
  8. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/
  9. UN News article: World is ‘on notice’ as major UN report shows one million species face extinction

  1. Previous case studies on hyperlinking in journalism: “Digital journalism” and the absence of hyperlinks 2013, The absence of hyperlinks in journalism, part two 2013, The state of hyperlinking in news reports 2014.
  2. Please do check my work. It would make me very happy if someone tried to make their own count and assessment of these publishers.
  3. Also, please do check other news orgs, and let me know how they do.
  4. Publishing meaningful links is an important way to mitigate misinformation in online publishing.