Using links as footnotes

Good columnists use facts to back up their opinions. Better ones tell you where they got those facts.

That’s why I like what Frank Rich does with his New York Times columns. Rich includes smartly selected links to show readers where his information comes from.

The most recent Rich column, on Sarah Palin, contains links to not only other New York Times content, but also stories at The Washington Post and McClatchy’s Washington bureau. That’s a smart move that makes Rich’s conclusions more believable.

Curiously, Rich is unusual among his NYT columnists in the prolific use of links as a sort of footnoting system. Ross Douthat has one link in his most recent column, and Nicholas Kristof has two. Maureen Dowd, Thomas Friedman, Bob Herbert, Paul Krugman, Gail Collins and David Brooks have none.

Linking is a simple way to build credibility into an op-ed piece. Why not use it?