Do Services like HARO, ProfNet and now NewsBasis Diminish Journalistic Integrity?

There’s a new HARO in town. And the service is making news.

On Sunday, the New York Times published a story about the launch of the new HARO/ProfNet competitor, the San Fransico-based NewsBasis.  Ragan’s PR Daily picked up the story asking essentially why the launch was newsworthy.  “Who’s doing this startup’s PR?” mused PR Daily editors.

So…day one and you’re in the New York Times…Nice.

Wondering how News Basis works or what makes it different? Here’s an explanation from the Times article:

Journalists post questions or search for sources with a particular expertise or point of view. Reporters can ask questions anonymously to avoid tipping off competitors. They can set an expiration date for their question and remove it when it has been answered to avoid getting bombarded with pitches.

Companies, public relations agencies and academics search for questions or, if they choose, get notification by e-mail whenever someone posts a relevant query.

Services like these can be particularly useful for small-business owners who want to connect with reporters but “don’t have 10 grand a month to pay a giant P.R. firm,” said Peter Shankman, founder of Help a Reporter Out, a competing service whose membership is 70 percent small businesses.

(Let me just say that MopwaterPR has affordable retainers starting out far below $10,000/month if anyone is looking for a firm. But I digress).

Interestingly enough, News Basis seems to take the HARO model and improve upon it considerably. And while we’re on the subject of HAROs, the fact that NewsBasis can be edited in real time is pretty cool, too. Since Vocus acquired HARO in June, the service has remained virtually unchanged. However, I suspect changes will be coming. Now with this new competitor on the block, those changes may come even more quickly. The only question is, will journalists use the service? We know journalists use HARO because the queries come at you three times per day.

More on how it works (video courtesy of News Basis):

One last thing: Back when I was a journalist, we didn’t have HARO. We had the phone, our connections, our staff meetings and our feet. I can only imagine how many more stories I would have been able to churn out with a HARO-like service.

This News Basis platform seems to make it even easier. Like, what’s the point of even showing up to work? Just throw in your query and let two dueling sides duke it out on News Basis and you’ve got your quotes. Add some context, a bit of editing and you’ve got a story?

A part of me salivates as a PR professional because I know this helps everyone connect much more easily. However, I wonder if connecting easily is truly the point of journalism. There’s just something about hustling up a story, and going out there with your preconceived notions, only to have them overturned. Or better yet, to have the story you thought you were going to cover get upstaged by a juicer, more exciting, more salacious story that you didn’t even know existed.

What do you think? Do sites like HARO, ProfNet and now NewsBasis make everyone’s jobs easier? Do they make journalists lazy? Do they make spin more probable? Do they add too much sheen and gloss to the news process and somewhat diminish journalistic integrity?

I’m undecided. What do you think?


Update – Sadly, Newsbasis chas closed its doors.

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