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Hypertextuality in net-native health news: A quantitative content analysis of hyperlinks and where they lead to

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By means of a quantitative content analysis of two Belgian net-native health news websites, this article investigates the reliability and usability of the hyperlinks in various forms of online news. Hyperlinks in our sample overwhelmingly redirect readers to government websites and websites that contain scientific information such as websites of universities, scientific research groups and peer-reviewed academic journals. Hyperlinks to information generally perceived as less reliable and possibly biased such as user-generated content or pharmaceutical companies are used rarely. This suggests that online health journalists strongly share the preferences of their offline colleagues. However, in terms of the potential of hypertext to tailor health news to the needs of the audience, for instance by including multimedia content or even simply by hyperlinking to webpages in the same language as the original, there are clear indications that Belgian online net-native health news falls short. The practical hindrances and hurdles identified in this content analysis constitute an invitation for online health journalists to consider the possibilities of hypertext in the light of how users might appreciate this practice.
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Keywords: content analysis; digital journalism; health news; hyperlinks; sourcing; transparency

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2019

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