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Help A Reporter Out was founded on the principle that we could easily connect journalists with sources all around the globe, for all media outlets.
In the beginning, we accepted all forms of media, from anyone claiming to be a reporter. As we got bigger, we had to start implementing certain rules and guidelines as to which forms of media were allowed to use the site to search for sources.
Sometime in late 2008, word got out to several college and university journalism departments about HARO. Professors started telling their students to use HARO to find sources for their college writing assignments. Unfortunately, many of the students didn’t tell us that they were writing not for publication, but rather, simply for a class assignment.
Now Imagine you’re the CEO of a company who is told by your PR agency that a freelancer wants to interview you. You take time out of your day to prep, and prepare notes. Finally, the call comes in, and you discover that you’re the subject of a Journalism 201 paper for Joe Sophomore. Needless to say, this doesn’t sit well with you. More importantly, it undermines the credibility of HARO.
As such, we instituted a ban on students using HARO for school projects. Unfortunately, students would simply revert to calling themselves “Reporters” for their university paper, and when pressed to provide an editor’s contact information or assignment desk email, would usually withdraw the query.
As such, we had no choice but to place a ban on student newspapers. As the old adage goes, “one bad apple ruins the bunch.”
We’re more than willing to identify new and better ways to work with student journalists. I’m a graduate of the journalism program at Boston University, and was a reporter for the Daily Free Press, BU’s student newspaper. I got my start on a college paper, just like almost every journalist currently working today. Believe me, having to prevent student journalists from using HARO is not a position in which we enjoy being. We look forward to your comments on how we can better differentiate between working student journalists, and students looking to abuse HARO for a class paper.