The Washington Post is quite possibly the worst-linking newspaper in the country. The reporters at our region’s dominant daily just don’t believe in linking. It’s as if their honor would take a hit every time they linked to another story, and God forbid it’s a competing news outlet!

That assessment stems not only from my experience here at Washington City Paper, where we can’t seem to buy a link from the Post. (Yet we are terribly generous to the Post nonetheless, out of an ethic of service to our readers!) It’s just that if you look through their stories, they’ll link a fair amount to their own stories—-a good traffic-driving strategy, to be sure—-and also to affiliated sources like whorunsgov.com, but rarely to outside infosources.

Now they appear to be getting some link-religion, if the accompanying memo—-from top local editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz—-is an indication. Check it after the jump.

Friends:

To both help with traffic and give our online readers a better, webbier experience, we need to get much more serious about linking to additional material from the body of our stories. We call this in-line linking, and it couldn’t be easier. So from now on, we expect every reporter to include *at least* two in-line links in every story before filing the story to the desk.

Here’s how: When in CCI, simply highlight the word or phrase you wish to hyperlink. In the pop-up box that appears, paste in the url of the link. Click OK. That’s it.

In the blog tool, highlight the text you want to hyperlink. Then hit the icon button that looks like a few links of chain. Paste the URL of the link into the box that pops up (some browsers may ask that you allow scripted windows to display the pop-up box. Say yes.)

Generally, we handle sidebars and other parts of a story package elsewhere on the article page, so no need to worry about those.

Some linking strategies:

1) Links to primary source material, like a report on a government web site, or a court filing, is obviously good. This should not subsitute for getting those documents on our site so that we keep the page views, but either way, these are among the most useful links for readers.

2) Links to our previous work is a great way to provide context, provided it’s truly relevant to the story from which you are linking. If there’s a story about Michelle Rhee doing X, a link back to a story about X would be good. A link to other Michelle Rhee stories would not.

3) Links to other web sources are good, but again make sure they are on point. Readers should not be surprised or disappointed by what they find. But doing this well demonstrates that we are aware of what else is being written on the subject, which enhances our credibility and authority.

4) It’s best to hyperlink an appropriate word or phrase that is part of your writing, as in: “In a report to the mayor….” You would hyperlink the word “report” to link to the document.