My Pet Peeve

As those who read my posts know, one of the reasons that I post source documents is that I don’t think that people should have to rely solely upon a report summarizing a court opinion or a statute even if I am the author of the summary. Thus, I believe that the practice of linking to source documents should be the rule rather than the exception for all news media.

I am not alone here. Today, the Lawfare Blog announced that, going forward:

Lawfare’s readers [will have] direct access to the primary law underlying the issues discussed on Lawfare. Lawfare readers can now click on references to legal authorities cited in Lawfare’s articles to go to the full text of the opinion or statute, published on Casetext.

The full text of the announcement is here. (I have pdf’d the page and uploaded the pdf here. A perma.cc link to the page is here.)

While the larger newspapers, such as the Washington Post and the New York Times, have increasingly been linking to source material, their practices are not consistent. Smaller news outlets virtually never provide links. Yet, the marginal cost of downloading source material, storing it on a news outlet’s server, and adding a link to a story carried online is trivial. I rather suspect that the rationale is something like: “We’ve been doing it without links for [fill in the blank] number of years and we see no reason to change now.”

Let me both make a suggestion and ask a favor of RBC members. Whenever you see a story on a court case, a proposed bill, or a statute and there is no link to the source, send an email to the reporter. Ask the reporter to send you a link and suggest that a link to source material should be provided in all similar stories. Perhaps sooner or later they’ll get the idea.

4 thoughts on “My Pet Peeve”

  1. It is a fine idea. And if they are going to go to all that trouble, I do like the pull quotes you do here (if that’s what they are called) and also highlighting, whenever I can get it.

    I have a peeve I’d like to run by folks. Would it be a good idea or a bad idea if newspapers had, instead of one architecture critic who critiqued, two who went at it in a debate? I feel like I would learn more that way. Or is that an illusion? Or … is it a mistake to read architecture criticism at all, when I know diddly about the subject?

  2. To guard against linkrot, it would also be a good convention to give an access date, so that a dead link can later be recovered through the Wayback Machine. I assume this is not infallible, but it greatly lowers the risk.

    1. Good point, but there are two better approaches.

      First, hereinafter, I will simply pdf the webpage. I will then put the RBC “stamp” on the pdf and upload it to my slnews.us domain. In a moment, I will edit the actual post to link to the pdf. In the interim, you can find it here: http://probono.slnews.us/SameFacts/2019/2019_12_08_casetext_lawfare_notice_to_readers_copy.pdf
      Since I hope to be in practice for at least five or six more years, good health and wife willing, this should, as a practical matter, create a work around the link rot issue.

      A far better remedy would be to use perma.cc. I have created a link here for the Lawfare announcement: https://perma.cc/49U7-YDZM

      The problem with perma.cc is that, for an individual who is not associated with an academic institution, a subscription is not cheap. (I’m still working on my 10 initial freebies.) However, for individuals who are associated with an academic institution that is part of the perma.cc network, perma.cc is free. Perhaps one of the academic members of RBC could look into using perma.cc for the blog.

  3. Alas, five or six years is really the blink of an eye, even in internet time. (Not exactly the same situation, but I’ve noticed when searching for simple answers to stupid tech questions that 7-10 years back seems to be the sweet spot.)

    Depending on a bunch of issues, it might be a thoughtful act to start putting away money to fund your domain and hosting further into the future. (Albeit it looks as is the monopoly-rent business there is starting to move into full swing)

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