Wednesday, July 23, 2008 aims to connect journalists, sources...   maybe   definitely

[* See update at end of this post]

I stumbled across an online service today that appears to be a Canadian equivalent of the U.S.-based Help a Reporter Out [].

I write "appears to be" because the creators of -- identified only as "Brendan, Natalie and Greg" -- are apparently shy about disclosing who they are except for some vague bios on the "About" page. The only contact information is a cryptic e-mail address, and a domain lookup states that the holder's identity is private. All of this suggests that the site might be nothing more than a spam harvester. [If you know who runs it, call me or drop me a line at the e-mail address at the top right of this page.]

My guess is that the site is a side-project by PR people who don't want to run afoul of non-compete clauses in their employment contracts, or a perhaps a pilot project for a new agency -- which renders its authors' apparent desire for anonymity somewhat justified.

Assuming that is legitimate, it seems to be modeled on the free HARO, which says it has gained some 16,000 users since it launched as a Facebook group last year.

But while the journalist-source matchmaker HARO competes with PR Newswire's fee-for-service ProfNet (which charges potential sources $600 to $4,500 for access to journalists' requests, according to the Industry Standard), I'm not aware of any parallel rivalry in Canada.'s closest competitor is likely, the online version of the desktop directory often found on journalists' shelves -- where the tome tends to stay.

I know of no professional journalist who uses Sources as anything but a last resort, in part because its criterion for listing would-be "experts" is apparently the ability to write a cheque. That's not to say legitimate authorities on a range of subjects are nonexistent or even plentiful in the Sources database but whenever I've thumbed through its pages in recent years, I've been struck by how many self-styled pundits I've found whose main expertise is ensuring they get pixels, airtime or ink.

With a little work and a little luck, perhaps can help solve that weakness in the journalist-source relationship.

UPDATE 07/25/08: Mystery solved -- is legit. I received an e-mail today from an old PR contact, Brendan Dermody -- the "Brendan" of's trio -- about the site's launch. Brendan wrote that he and his cohort were inspired by HARO and the U.K.'s Getting Ink to launch the Canadian source-pulling service (vs. the traditional model of PR push to journalists). You can also connect on Twitter by following @JSources. Good luck, Brendan!


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