This was originally published in Del.icio.us social bookmarking explained and Need some background info? Just follow the electronic trail.as
How journalists can use web bookmarking services to manage, find and publish documents.
Every newspaper has a library, and most journalists have kept some sort of cuttings file for reference. But what if you could search that cuttings file like you search Google? What if you could find similar articles and documents? What if you could let your readers see your raw material?
That’s what online bookmarking – or ‘social bookmarking‘ – tools allow you to do. And they have enormous potential for journalists.
There are a number of social bookmarking services. Del.icio.us is best known and most widely used and supported. For this reason this article will focus mostly on Del.icio.us.
The most basic function of bookmarking services is allowing you to effectively manage ‘cuttings’, i.e. online reports, webpages, and articles.
When you register at Del.icio.us you can add buttons to your browser. The next time you’re on a webpage that you think you might want to refer to later, click on that ‘add to del.icio.us’ button to bookmark it. You’ll be given some extra options before you save – and this is where it gets really useful.
The first option is to add ‘notes’. This is a useful place to copy a key quote to, or your own remarks. The second option is to add ‘tags’, i.e. categories, key words, people, etc. The great thing is that this can go in as many categories as you want. So you might tag something with ‘health’, ‘NHS’, ‘report’, and ‘experts’ – or ‘localhistory’, ‘birmingham’ and ‘industry’, for example.
These tags will then be listed on the right hand side of your Del.icio.us page so you can instantly access anything with a particular tag.
Finding new leads and information
Once you start bookmarking webpages, it gets interesting. The ‘social’ bit of social bookmarking is that you can see anything tagged ‘NHS’ by anyone else, helping you to spot leads or information you would otherwise have missed.
You can also see who bookmarked the same webpages as you (it will say ‘saved by 23 other people’, for instance, underneath), and what else they have bookmarked.
And if you are interested in the sorts of things a particular user is bookmarking, once you’re on their page you can click ‘add X to my network’ to do just that – your page will then contain a link to ‘your network’ which will show anything bookmarked by those users. Regularly checking this can keep you up to date on your chosen field, as well as proving new leads. Consider them your researchers, or tipsters.
Some have called it ‘link journalism’ – the very act of gathering sources as an act of journalism itself. Others point to the way the internet can make journalism more transparent: no longer is there a restriction on space or time – readers can, if they wish, click through to full documents, reports and archive material. Or video, audio and images. Or online tools and services.
Social bookmarking sites make it easy to make your raw material available. At its most basic you can include a link at the bottom of your article to your Del.icio.us page – which is what Jo Ind at the Birmingham Post does with her health articles (del.icio.us/birminghampost), or Radio 4’s iPM. You could link to subcategories (my bookmarks on social bookmarking are at http://del.icio.us/paulb/socialbookmarking, for instance). While the article remains the same, the links are continually updated, by you.
But you can also use Del.icio.us’ built in RSS feeds to automatically publish bookmarked articles on your article webpages (or indeed anywhere you wish), as The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss does with her ‘PDA Newsbucket’, and many blogs do with a simple sidebar widget.