Here are some tips of the best expert sources for journalists.
Throughout my career I've had a lot of people ask me: how do journalists find sources?

Well, the answer to that changes from assignment to assignment, the resources at a journalist's disposal and of course, personal preference. But most journalists rely on deep research, often looking through universities' websites and tapping into their existing network to find experts.

However, as the media and news industry changes and evolves, and the speed of news reporting grows, press professionals are more and more in need of journalist tools that will aid them in their work.

What are journalist tools? As the term implies, journalist tools are specialized search engines, online databases, social networks, and archives that journalism professionals can use to source story ideas and at times experts.

There are a wide range of differences between the tools, while some are created by Public Relations organizations and sell journalists' information (using journalists as their product); others are created and maintained by journalists themselves (like Rolli).

Below we will explore why journalism reporters are turning to tools to make their expert research faster and more efficient.

Why more journalists are in-need of expert sources tools...

With over 25% of newsroom jobs lost since 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, shrinking revenues & budgets have forced newsrooms to become more efficient.

Meanwhile, a growing number of journalists are becoming independent, working as freelancers, and starting Substacks, podcasts and social media news companies.

These independent journalists are losing access to the resources that were once available to them in a large newsroom.

So, there are certain tools and resources journalists can use to stay on top of their game and stay up-to-date with the latest stories and press events.

This blog post will explore the importance of sourcing expert information associated with the reporting process, and how to quickly and easily find them when needed.


How to find subject-matter experts?

Tools to find experts…

Here are some tools to find experts:
  • Rolli
  • HARO (can eventually lead to finding an expert but it isn't a tool for this)
  • Google Scholar
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Below we'll dive into some of these different tools:

Journalist tools to find experts: Rolli, a vetted online database 
Rolli is a searchable database of vetted diverse experts that journalists can call upon to serve as credible sources in their news stories, segments, or articles.

Unlike most other services which have been built with journalists as the product, allowing PR to buy journalists contact info, Rolli was built by journalists, for journalists.

There is no pitching on Rolli, no selling of data, no booking fees, and no agents. On Rolli, most experts' contact info is listed directly, so journalists don't have to jump through many hoops to get to the source (although organization media representatives can opt to be included in the back and forth communication).

Journalists can access the platform for free (for a limited time) and they can search the online database for vetted sources by expertise, location, and even language.

This is an example of what Rolli's searchable database of vetted experts looks like:
Rolli has a low subscription price for vetted experts and organizations.

This searchable database disrupts a traditionally cost-prohibitive PR industry, democratizing access and leveling the playing field by removing media gatekeepers.

Rolli ensures that deep expertise (not deep pockets) leads to media opportunities for new, diverse experts, female experts, and other ethnic groups underrepresented in the news media.

This is important because under 13% of guests on the influential Sunday morning shows in the US in 2020 were minority women, according to the Women’s Media Center.

Rolli's mission is to help journalists with the process of finding diverse sources and finding experts, solving widespread resource and efficiency issues while contributing to fact-based journalism through the first and only Newsroom as a Service™ platform.

Rolli's verified platform includes the industry’s first preloaded News Calendar and an artificial intelligence-fueled News Desk which identifies trending news stories and recommends relevant experts based on their credentials, example in the picture below:
HARO or Help A Reporter Out
What is haro? “HARO” (Help a Reporter Out) is a mailing list and query-based service. HARO is also referred to as 'help a journalist out,' 'help reporter out,' ‘help a writer out,’ ‘haro service,’ ‘haro marketing,’ or ‘haro public relations’ as HARO is owned by a Public Relations firm.

The way it works is that journalists submit a request for expert commentary on a certain topic (haro query), an email is sent out a few times a day to expert sources that have subscribed, and if an expert in a field sees the query and is interested in providing expert feedback they can reply to the email.

While HARO may be helpful for some print journalists with flexible or generous deadlines, it is unusable for TV broadcast and radio reporters, as they usually need on-camera responses and interviews quickly, not a written response hours later. Another complaint that experts often have about HARO, is that researchers can spend an hour crafting a good quote that never gets used, as journalists get dozens of responses that they have to sift and pick from.

But of course HARO is not the only expert sources system.

There are quite a few Help a Reporter Out (H.A.R.O.) alternatives to find subject matter experts and there are even better tools, reporter database and search engine systems to find underrepresented voices (like Rolli).

Google Scholar (Good for finding academics, but only gets you halfway there)

Another way that reporters may find people or experts to interview for their articles or stories is through Google Scholar.

This Google website allows you to search professional journals and published articles.

These articles could be a source from which you might be able to find the name of researchers, academics, and possibly an expert in the field you are interested in.

While the site is good for learning which experts or academics might be doing research in certain fields it requires multiple extra steps for reporters and writers that are trying to find experts through this website; as they then have to go on and find out where those researchers are working today, and then try to locate contact information for them.

Twitter (Good for story ideas, not expert sources)

Some writers and reporters use Twitter to find experts or organizations to contact.

Twitter can be beneficial because you can see who is keeping up to date on certain topics and you can get a sense of their stance through their tweets.

However, Twitter isn't vetted, there is typically no direct contact info, and there is no easy way to search the system to find and compare experts in the particular topic you are looking for.

So while Twitter is an important tool and can help with finding many stories, it's not ideal when it comes to identifying experts to interview for a particular topic or segment.

LinkedIn (Good because of the number of users but not vetted or searchable by latest research or expertise)

The LinkedIn Network is easy to use and the site allegedly counts over 900 million users. But you might be surprised to hear that this isn't a favored tool for finding experts for reporters and writers.

LinkedIn has virtually zero vetting, anyone can say or claim virtually anything on LinkedIn. So while a few reporters, writers, bloggers might use it as an initial guide, an additional background check has to be done on those experts so they can meet basic vetting standards.

Additionally, while you can search LinkedIn by job title, there is no easy way to search by the current research being done or even the descriptors of their jobs.

An example of this is you need experts in presidential election polling, you might have to search LinkedIn for pollsters or political science professors, but finding experts that match that research criteria could be painstaking and take hours of work.


To conclude, sourcing expert information and resources are essential facets of the professional journalist’s work.

Whether it’s through the use of journalist tools, services such as Rolli (expert database) can help journalists source quality experts faster, allowing them to be more efficient in an ever evolving and accelerating news industry.

About the author

Nick Toso is a former CNN television producer and journalist. He worked in the Washington DC Bureau for nearly a decade, during his time, he helped produce interviews with dozens of presidents and world leaders, including President Obama, Clinton, and more.

Nick is also the founder of