Cherubs slide into DMs during hunt for sources

After finalizing their topic for the trend story, cherubs faced the challenge of finding credible sources to interview.

Locating experts in a certain field or people with specific experiences meant contacting complete strangers. Social media is now the avenue for doing so.

Cherub Sarah Strubbe contacts actor and musician Daniel David Stewart for an interview. Photo by Sarah Strubbe

Cherubs found instructor Erica Snow’s lecture on social media to be a useful guide. Snow talked about how to use social media as a reporting tool. She shared tips on where to find sources and on sending professional messages to them.

Snow said she started using social media, primarily Facebook, to find sources when she worked for The Daily Northwestern. She also learned to use social media as a reporting tool at her internship at The Wall Street Journal, as well as by watching her reporter friends mess up along the way.

“Young reporters now need to be just as good at sending cold messages to people on the internet as they need to be at cold-calling people on the phone,” Snow said.

After the lecture, cherubs without social media accounts created them. Talia Abrahamson of Los Angeles said she immediately got Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Reddit accounts, and they came in handy. For her trend story, Abrahamson direct-messaged one person on Instagram and one person on Facebook messenger. The contact on Facebook immediately responded and became the lead source for her article—and her lede, as well.

“I don’t know how I would have contacted him otherwise,” Abrahamson said.

Others started using their existing social media accounts in new ways. Sarah Strubbe of Riverside, Illinois, said she had Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts when she came to the program but had never used them to reach out to strangers. For her trend story, Strubbe estimates sending direct messages (DMs) to at least 20 celebrities on Instagram.

“I just went for it,” Strubbe said. “I looked so pretentious just “DMing” 20 verified people. But it was worth it because I got into contact with some people.”

Strubbe said two people she direct messaged responded to her. Through them, she was able to reach other sources.

Strubbe said social media like Facebook and LinkedIn was critical to finding sources.

“Don’t be afraid to just put yourself out there,” Strubbe said. “Don’t be afraid to slide into people’s DMs.”