Deuze (2003) posits online journalism affords unique opportunities that print journalism did not previously offer. Hypertextuality refers to ability to link text using HTML to other websites on the Internet. While Deuze only briefly mentions hypertextuality and discusses some potential issues, I would like to highlight some of the positive affordances of hypertext linking. The practices surrounding hypertext linking in journalism include one news article linking to another on the same site, another article from a different source or theoretically anything on the net.
The digital architecture of online news portals allows for stories to take different shapes and approaches that print journalism stories could. Instead of devoting sentences to explain the context of a story (or ignoring it), an online news article can simply link to a broader explanatory piece. Journalists can also contrast their analysis of an event to other journalists by linking to their article. This places articles into networks of knowledge instead of singular snapshots of a time. For example, a series of stories on the Greek debt crisis in Vox contains the following paragraph on the recent elections:
On January 25, a formerly marginal left-wing party called Syriza swept into office in Greece and unsettled the political arrangements that were used to avert catastrophe.
In the case of this hypertextual linking, Syriza links to its respective Wikipedia page and “avert catastrophe” links to another Vox article.
For readers, this allows for potentially deeper engagement with the subject matter in an article. One story opens up several other stories, which could delve into historic context, opposing analysis and related stories. This directly evokes Vannevar Bush’s concept of the Memex, a device capable of mimicking the human ability to link concepts.
According to Pew, younger generations of Americas have turned to online news instead of print journalism. Hypertext links present a shift in how people will engage with the news. Links are to be expected, articles become less of a encapsulation of a moment and become a jumping off point into larger discussions.