Magazine article Editor & Publisher
When Stuck for a Source, Look Here
Less than a year ago, public relations veteran and Web junkie Peter Shankman used his Facebook page to give reporter friends a place to find sources. Since then, www.helpareporter. com has become a daily necessity for hundreds of journalists -- as well as many publicists seeking to get their clients some press, all through a simple Web-based newsletter.
"Reporters who are friends of mine would call me looking for sources," says Shankman, 36. A founding editor of AOL News in 1995, he has since done PR and Web consulting and created the successful Geek Factory public relations outlet. He initially used his Facebook page to match up scribes and sources in November 2007, then extended it to a separate Web site in March when demand grew. Journalists looking for sources, and those seeking to create some news, can visit and sign up.
Three times a day, Shankman sends out e-mails with topics and names of reporters looking for sources. If a would-be source thinks that he or she can contribute to a journalist who is listed, they can respond by e-mail. "The whole logic is that it lists the sources a reporter can get," says Shankman. "There are 25 to 45 queries per e-mail, from CNN to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal." On Aug. 5, Shankman boasted his 20,000th registered member receiving the daily missives.
An E&P query within one of the e-mails seeking users of the site brought a flood of testimonials praising Shankman. "It was great," wrote Erin Frost, news editor of the Lincoln (Ill. …