Digital change:

Reporters without quotes

open | 08 October, 2013

NEW YORK. Today I stumbled across a new type of social media, helpareporter.com (haro), which offers a list of people in various fields who are happy to be quoted in stories. This new  call-for-a-quote-service is used by a fair amount of also established media, including top papers and news agencies. *

The way it works is that Haro offers a subscription service for those who want to be quoted in the media for what ever reason, it can be to sell a product, service or a particular style of message. Reporters can then find their perfect match and ask for a quote.

A match made in journalism heaven one might say.  At least if you are pressed for time, and journalists always are. To get that missing quote in your story can sometimes be a very a tedious, cumbersome process. So to have Haro to lean against when your own contact book fails sounds just great.

Journalists are more pressed for time than ever. Fewer writers are supposed to deliver more stories. The editorial food-chain is in turmoil, costs have to be cut. To a degree when some generic content is even outsourced to low cost countries.

Or does it? The reporter, fortunately, is not paying for this service  - that would immediately become a breach against basic journalism ethics. But then the 'quote-giver' does actually pay a subscription fee for the service.

So where does it leave us. What it really mean is that Haro, the fee structure starts at 19 dollars a month, operates a s a kind of editorial product/service/message placement agent.

These kind of people who are putting themselves forward and are willing and even delighted to be interviewed is not new as such. There is one big difference though, that the people on the list are well prepared for interviews and most likely have a pitch, or a catchy line to offer. You can actually be quite sure the person quoted has a particular message to drive as they are paying to access the reporter in other words they have something to sell.

The other thing is if the people you access on Hero actually are who they say they are. A story in Fortune shows how easy it is to con yourself into a newspaper with the help of Haro. None of the newspapers who were tested out by self-proclaimed con man LINK

The way hero.com explains its business is that it can help you to promote yourself or whatever you represent through a subscription. Lets say you are a owner of a vinyl record store, and a reporter through hero.com then calls you up as you have stated you are happy to be quoted about whatever has to do with vinyl records.

In the Forbes story the hero-listed 'quoter' was delivering a quote to a reporter from New York Times. the problem was the had no background in vinyls. He was a con man who had in fact sent of tens of quotes to various newspapers as a means to expose how gullible the media was.

Does this mean that a service such as hero.com, with a claimed list of 30 000 clients, should be avoided? Surely one can use these self-promoting 'quoters' as a starting block. its just a mater of follow up and check them out?

Well, yes, but, no but…. There is much less room for alarm bells to ring, an important factor when you work a reporter. Its also quite clear that this 'commoditisation' of quotations makes it just too easy. Therefore also too easy to go wrong.

it is easy to understand why reporters are doing this. They can argue that its always been a set of people that are called upon as journalists know they are easy enough to deal with, that they may be publicity seekers and have an interest in promoting themselves.

But that is besides the point. The real reason for this kind of service is because of another commoditisation in the media food chain, that of the reporter, who is pushed to do more for less ever since news media started to cut back on staff in an ongoing process that gained momentum after the first internet bubble burst.

Fair enough you might say. The problem is, its just too easy to have a service like help-a-reporter as it becomes even easier to manipulate the media. And with that comes an ever growing crisis of legitimacy for the journalistic trade.

Lies and deception has of course always found its way into the media. With a service like hero.com the likelihood fit the  'lie' ratio will increase dramatically. The journalism supply-chain is cut open and with it comes increased possibilities for deceit.

* Haro says its clients includes  AP-Dow Jones, New York Times, Fox, ABC and the likes.

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