05/24/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Trend of the Times: Reporters Tapping Into Social Media for Content

Ahh, the days of Lois Lane and Clark Kent combing the city streets to find a tip or a hot lead are over. With the boom of social media, when journalists need to take the pulse of the city, they only need to go as far as their keyboard for research, content, and resources.

I use online social networking sites for research, article ideas, chapter titles, and general hot topics. It is fun and informative to read the buzz on Facebook or Twitter and to see people's comments about a topic that would otherwise only be discussed at the office water cooler.

My suspicions were confirmed when I read a recent post by author and speaker, Warren Whitlock who reported on the results of this new trend. He sited a national survey conducted at George Washington University in which "an overwhelming majority of reporters and editors now depend on social media sources when researching their stories. Among the journalists surveyed, 89% said they turn to blogs for story research, 65% to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% to micro-blogging services such as Twitter. The survey also found that 61% use Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopedia." The posting goes on to say that all of the information they found online has not proven to be completely accurate and that additional fact-checking was required, but the foundation for the story originated online. (See full story here.)

Another really interesting "newsroom" concept is Help A Reporter Out (HARO). I first learned about them when I saw a status update on Facebook that a friend had became a Fan of HARO. When I saw that they had more than 12,000 Fans I had to take a closer look. It was developed by Peter Shankman, a Dot-com entrepreneur, his concept is to help reporters and editors get connected with sources. Anyone can join as either a Source or a Reporter at no charge because Shankman charges for advertising space and he has control over the ads because he writes them at the top of his e-mail blasts. These e-mails are sent out three times a day with topics that journalists have been assigned and they are looking for qualified resources. If the topic is something a Source has expertise in, he/she responds directly to the reporter. The premise is that everyone is an expert at something, so why not make the connection. is very similar to the HARO concept in that once an expert registers, a daily media newsletter is emailed. The difference in their service is that all requests and replies are done through the website, therefore the email address of the reporter is kept confidential.

I am also an advocate of because like HARO, it puts journalists and experts together in a very streamlined way. Journalists still make requests by logging onto the site and they receive pitches directly into their inbox. The differences with PitchRate are: (1) the Expert only has to enter their contact information and profile once because it is stored when they register their account and it is automatically attached to each pitch they make, (2) the journalist can see the rating of the expert based on prior engagement by other reporters, (3) the expert does not receive email notifications of requests for a variety of topics, but instead can run a search based on categories or keywords, and (4) the journalist's email address is not made public because the pitches come from the PitchRate website. In addition, publicists can also register on this website to help promote the experts they represent.

All of these concepts lend themselves well to an author or speaker who wants more visibility and credibility (Isn't that ALL authors and speakers?) Not only could you become a great resource for journalists because they found your relevant blog topic online when they were doing research for a story, but you could also become an expert Source. Imagine a professional reporter needing your expertise and content for their published article!

About Arielle Ford:
Arielle Ford has launched the careers of many NY Times bestselling authors including Deepak Chopra, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Neale Donald Walsch & Debbie Ford. She is a former book publicist, literary agent and the author of seven books. To learn how to get started writing a book please visit: