Being a journalist means you have to find people in unconventional ways. Depending on your location, it can be difficult to find the right people for your story. Location can definitely limit the kinds of stories a journalist can write. Living in Des Moines, Iowa, writing about music and fashion, for example, are rather challenging. Phone calls and emails don’t always cut it if you want a story with some real imagery and credibility. Luckily, there are several sites just for journalists that help us find sources without leaving the couch.
The first thing to do is simply search the person on your preferred search engine. I use Google, but any search engine works. This helps you find a place to start and may lead you to the source’s personal website or other information published about him or her. Sometimes, if you get lucky, this is all you need to do to find your source.
If you can’t gather enough information from a search engine, try social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. More than likely if it is a person of public importance, he or she will have a profile on at least one of these sites. If you’re looking for a band or band member, Myspace might also be helpful.
ProfNet is a website by PR Newswire specifically created to help journalists find sources by connecting them with business professionals. All you have to do is submit a query and let the emails come to you. You can even filter your queries by geographical location and institution type to help you reach the right people. The best part? It’s free to use! You can get more information about ProfNet from an earlier post here.
The Journalist’s Toolbox, by the Society of Professional Journalists, provides a list of dozens of great places to find sources and resources too.
Another way to search for sources is to check archives of newspapers, magazines or television programs online or from your source’s location if you want to search through the print editions. If she’s a fashion designer in New York, she has probably been featured in a story or two from Elle Magazine. If he’s a college basketball player from Kentucky, he may have been mentioned on ESPN or Sports Illustrated magazine if he is really the bees knees. Even less public figures can be found this way by searching indirectly for people with connections to the person you are looking for.
“Cyber stalking” (meant as a joke) can be an effective way to find sources that you had no idea even existed. There is enough information out there to find virtually anyone if you search hard enough and pool your resources. All you really need is a name and you can find anyone you want.
How does this make you feel as a journalist? Yes it makes finding sources easier, but what about privacy? Do you think it is a positive thing that we can reach other people so easily?