Web site discriminates against student reporters

HelpaReporterOut.com is supposed to do exactly what its Web address says — help journalists by locating sources for their works.

HelpaReporterOut.com is supposed to do exactly what its Web address says — help journalists by locating sources for their works.

But, as I learned last week, put the pesky title “student” in front of “journalist,” and that reporter is at an extreme disadvantage.

After submitting a query for sources on the site, I received a response less than an hour later from the site’s editor, Michael Griffin. Griffin said HelpaReporterOut.com “is not for college newspapers.”

Why? Nowhere on the Web site does it say that college journalists are not allowed.

I e-mailed Griffin to ask him why his site was not for college journalists, and he forwarded an e-mail response from the creator of the site, Peter Shankman.

Shankman wrote that getting quoted by student newspapers was bothersome to the clients he was providing as sources for reporters.

“Three hours of prep time for what?” Shankman wrote in an e-mail. “PR firms and clients were far from pleased. I’d say that if there was more transparency from the student journalists, this rule probably wouldn’t have to be put into place.”

I am extremely transparent about who I am and the publication for which I write.

I am a journalist. As a staff writer, I research, report and write. Just because I am a student does not mean I am not a journalist.

Kirsten Lindermayer, an adjunct journalism professor, said the Web site’s policy was unreasonable because the only way to become a true journalist is to fill the role of the position.

“To cut off an avenue like [HelpaReporterOut.com] to students seems to make absolutely no sense, especially since it’s free,” she said.

Lindermayer added that classes at Temple offer “a ton of practical experience” on “how to interview or how to structure a news story, but the fact of the matter is, until you do it yourself you don’t really know how to do it.”

Corinne M. Snell, executive director of the Center for Student Professional Development, said a student’s being denied information was uncommon.

“I have not personally encountered this situation or heard from our business students that they were denied access to resources simply because they are in college,” Snell said in an e-mail interview. “If a student is interested in specific services or resources offered by a professional organization, they take advantage of relevant student memberships.”

Students may not have the credentials for certain services and opportunities. But for Shankman, who once had to start somewhere as well, to prevent a student from getting ahead is baffling.

Joshua Fernandez can be reached at josh.fernandez@temple.edu.


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