The archive lets you sort Mark's weblog entries by the sources he cites. For example, you can access every entry that cites The Onion, Jakob Nielsen, or The Washington Post. Plus, the archive page lists how many entries cite each particular source. (At the time of this writing, for example, he'd cited Dave Winer 26 times and Paul Ford 7 times.)
Such a system is made simple because Mark's blog entries use the appropriate code -- the
cite tag -- to identify source names. That makes it easy for a computer to discern which pieces of a blog entry are citations. (Which, in turn, makes it easy for a computer to group entries that have similar citations, or calculate how often a particular source is cited.)
This new way of archiving has caused a stir in the weblogging community, but the idea isn't just a weblog novelty. It's a concept news Web sites should adopt and run with. Here's why that should happen:
It groups content in helpful ways
It's obvious that someone looking for quotes by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld would benefit from an archive of all stories that cited him. Such an archiving scheme helps readers, researchers and journalists themselves.
It provides interesting meta-information about the site
I'd be fascinated to see a list of the most-quoted sources at the New York Times. Or, whom the Times rarely quotes. This type of information has an allure similar to that of "most-e-mailed articles" lists (such as Yahoo's).
It keeps the journalists in check
Most importantly, a citation archive would lay bare a news organization's biases by disclosing publicly which sources have been quoted more than others.
It's no secret that some "unbiased" news outlets quote certain groups -- say, members of certain political parties -- more exclusively than other groups. The American media watchdog group FAIR has published several reports revealing in detail some of these "official agendas." (One study concluded a PBS news program had
"utterly failed" to be a fair, open forum because the show's guests tended to be of similar political leanings.)
If news Web sites made it easy for readers to see how often certain sources were quoted, journalists would have extra incentive to "get both sides of the story."