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Help A Reporter Out

I recently discovered the Help A Reporter Out [1] service.

Subscribers receive three messages every business day each of which contains about 40 queries from journalists. People who subscribe can contact the journalist to provide information or offer an interview. Any journalist can send in a query. Peter Shankman runs this, it seems that it helps promote his other business ventures and there is also a paid advert at the top of every message.

This has to be one of the best services that I have ever unsubscribed from! The vast majority of the questions are about topics that are not relevant to me – there are typically about 6 IT related questions per day out of 100+.

I would like to see a “Help An IT Reporter Out” service. It could consist of a single email per day which might have 10 questions due to a more focussed market. This would take less time to skim read which would make it more appealing to most people who are doing interesting things with computers. Then of course it could allow targeted messages related to different IT sectors (servers, desktops, PDA/phones), technologies, etc. Exporting the questions to Twitter would be good for people who like that sort of thing.

If anyone wants to start such a service then let me know and I’ll promote it on my blog.

8 comments to Help A Reporter Out

  • This service could also host a “Questions for…” section. If you’re a reporter interviewing some IT exec, you could hit the site for top questions from his or her users.

  • nine

    Could be worth just asking the existing owner to split the existing list into multiple lists, based on subject.

  • etbe

    Don: Peter seems very focussed on doing what he is doing right now. He has really clear instructions of what types of response to reporters are acceptable, and suggestions are off limits.

    There is probably scope for a separate service for suggesting questions.

    nine: I left a sign-off comment when I unsubscribed. But again when someone seems really determined to do things one way it seems unlikely that they will make major changes. If nothing else my desire to receive one message a day breaks their advertising model.

  • David Ulevitch

    HARO is intended for PR people who do this all day… What you want is not HARO, but something else. Shankman will probably break HARO up into a few different lists at some point, it’s natural. But it won’t be because you feel burdened with 3 emails a day; that’s a PR person’s job.

  • etbe

    David: If we assume that PR people don’t have the time deficit problems that almost everyone else does today and we assume that HARO is only designed for PR people then that makes sense.

    It’s pretty sad that journalists would want to ask questions of a list that only contains corporate PR people. One of the biggest problems with journalism today is the publication of press releases.

    This devalues the mainstream media.

    For the IT industry and in particularly the software sector a large portion of the news-worthy events concern individuals and there are no corporate PR types to represent them. So it seems to me that the HARO model just isn’t going to work well for the IT industry (where “well” is defined as the production of accurate, timely, and insightful reporting of news).

  • sam varghese

    this is one of the worst possible ideas i have heard of. it is the ideal vehicle for spinmeisters to get their message out. it is for lazy writers who cannot be bothered to find out the credentials of a person before asking her/him for comment. i’m surprised you even wrote about it.

  • etbe

    sam: I agree that having a list that best caters to the needs of PR people is a bad idea.

    But I think that the general concept of having a way for soliciting comments from a wider audience is a good thing. Presumably the writer can then assess the credentials of the people who respond to the request and determine which (if any) of them are worthy of an interview.

  • Thank you for reminding me to do this this weekend. What sounded helpful is an inbox-clogging nightmare. I’ve subscribed to about four such services (all US or UK-based) and simply delete the lot in a state of overwhelm. Most is, as you say, irrelevant. I am in fact preparing a similar-but-better system but, sadly, not for IT.

    Great blog. Glad I found it.