04 August 2012 Guest Contributor

Ok, I was going to ignore this because it’s old news now and I’m not sure I can add much to the discussion, but I’m fired up about it again and just have to vent my spleen. You see, there’s been a story in the last month about a PR guy called Ryan Holiday who’s tried to sell his ‘experiment’ in using free sourcing tools like HARO and SourceBottle to LIE to any and every journalist or blogger who’ll listen as a way to show… um… God knows what. In my opinion, it’s to flog a book he’s written telling people how to do the same (what the?). But HE says it’s to show how online sourcing tools embody so much that is wrong with online journalism. But he’s a self-confessed liar, right? Oh, but NOW he’s telling the truth. Yeh, sure. 

Since he’s effectively alienated himself from every journalist, blogger and PR professional with a pulse, I’m thinking he might not have thought this thing through. I mean, what journalist or blogger in their right mind is going to believe him (or his clients for that matter) now? He’s just gleefully boasted to the world about duping a handful of journalists and bloggers who didn’t do enough background research. But way worse, in doing so, he’s tried to taint the whole industry. 

Anyway, apart from leaving a bad taste in my mouth, what I don’t understand is why the tool is being attacked. As I see it, the people at fault here are this guy who, in breach of the service’s conditions, lied and cheated his way into stories, and the journalists and bloggers who didn’t check the veracity of his stories. 

Why try to cast a negative light on crowdsourcing services like SourceBottle that exist to help both journalists and bloggers access a much larger network of expert sources, and to help individuals and businesses share their great stories with the rest of us? There are no losers in this equation, as long as we respect the parameters of the sourcing service and all do our jobs. Or perhaps he’s not a good enough practitioner to get his clients the publicity they need without resorting to wild embellishments? What’s that old chestnut again? That’s right. A poor workman blames his tools. 

And while (in my opinion) self-serving opportunists like Holiday contribute nothing to an industry that exists in part from developing and nurturing relationships of trust between source and storyteller, people like him do exist. We get it. If you’re a journalist or blogger, you need to remember this and do your background research, fact checking etc. You would if you found the source via the Yellow Pages, on Facebook or in an elevator, so how is this different? 

For the last three years, I’ve worked tirelessly to build a service that is both free and effective for journalists and bloggers. I’m not the least bit apologetic that this tool – without doubt – helps journalists and bloggers find quality sources quickly. That’s what it’s for. And I’m proud of it.