New York Times Releases Emphasis, a Deep Linking Tool

From time to time I bug the good folks at Lexum about introducing paragraph level anchors into the court decisions they publish: it would be very handy indeed to be able to make a hyperlink that went right to a paragraph within a judgment. And, of course, this feature, like many others, is on the crowded Lexum/CanLII agenda, and will have to wait its turn.

But in the meanwhile, the New York Times has just released a new version of its paragraph level linking tool, Emphasis. There’s a good article, “Emphasis Update and Source,” by Michael Donohoe, that explains what difficulties the Times people encountered in getting this tool to this stage, the main one being, it would seem, the fact that Times stories face the constant prospect of re-editing, making it difficult to define and locate “this paragraph.” It’s been solved in the most ingenious fashion (a way that, incidentally, involves something delightfully known as the Levenshtein distance) and the new system is now in operation on the Times website.

To make it work when you’re on a Times page, simply double-click the shift key and — hey presto! — lovely little paragraph signs appear beside each paragraph; then click in the paragraph you’d like to link to, observing that the URL in your location bar is changed as you do it; and if you’d like to highlight a sentence for the users of your URL, simply click on a sentence, which gets highlighted and a modified URL. Copy the URL from your browser location bar and there you, and all the users of your URL, are.

I wish I could say I liked it so much I bought the company, but a newspaper, even in these parlous times, is a bit out of my budget. I did the next best thing, though: I installed the brand new Emphasis plugin on Slaw, so that now you can deep link to any paragraph in Slaw in exactly the same way. Enjoy.

And Lexum might like to note that the Times’s Donohoe has made the code open source and posted it on GitHub. It might help out.


  1. Simon,

    We’ve added the anchors but forgot to announce it, see

    More functionality is coming around that…



  2. Wow, that’s great news, Ivan. Wonderful. Glad that we learned about it first on Slaw.