Journalists and Quora: An Update

QuoraA few months ago, journalists flocked to Quora. Now, how are they using it, and is it really a valuable tool?

In case you don’t know, Quora is a Q&A site similar to Yahoo Answers or LinkedIn Answers. As Poynter.org points out, journalists rapidly took to the site because it got a good deal of media coverage and the site auto-follows users’ Facebook and Twitter accounts so once a few influencers joined, word spread quickly.

Quora users ask and answer questions, and then users can up or down vote the answers, which hopefully means valuable information will rise to the top.

Another way the site is trying to improve quality of the answers is by allowing people to improve answers by adding comments to the content, such as “needs explanation,” “duplicate answer” and “should disclose affiliations.”

The fact that Quora cares about quality is a good thing for journalists. Unlike many social media tools, it’s more about sharing and discovering knowledge than about socializing.

The quality of information and people found on the site is impressive. You’ll often see people from the companies answering questions being asked about them, and people sharing information about companies that has never been shared before.

A few ways journalists can use Quora?

Poynter.org has a good article with six ways journalists can use Quora. Here’s a summary:

  • to discover leads
  • to spot trends
  • to find interview sources
  • as a research tool
  • to explore buzz
  • to share expertise
  • to monitor what people are saying about your media organization

How many journalists are using Quora?

A similar question on the site lists over 400 journalists from organizations and freelancers, bloggers and others that added their own names.

After checking out many of these people, it seems that most of them haven’t used the site beyond maybe once or twice.

A few people do use Quora often, though. For example, Deb Amlen blogs about puzzles for The New York Times. She answers questions about crossword puzzles and follows related topics.

Several blog posts have been inspired by questions asked on Quora, and all of them relate to technology. See the answers to a question about story leads for specific examples.

Overall Quora has a lot of potential, but if the quality doesn’t stay high and the ability to search doesn’t remain easy, journalists won’t waste their valuable time using this tool.

Laura Lorek, a journalist, gives the following answer about Quora’s use for reporters:

Quora will take a few years before it becomes a regularly used tool in a journalist’s toolbox. But I believe it has enormous potential.

The great thing about the site right now is the quality (mentioned earlier) and the cleanliness of the site.

One user likened Quora to a fishing expedition, but I think that’s something most journalists are used to. Finding good ideas and the right sources is almost never easy.

Mallary Jean Tenore, associate editor of Poynter.org, makes an important point.

I look at Quora in much the same way as Twitter and Facebook; all of these sites are good starting points for finding story ideas and sources, but they shouldn’t replace interviews and deeper reporting.

As a note of caution for journalists citing Quora, the site does have rules about how you can use content on their site.  Also if you’re new to the site, you might want to check out one user’s helpful welcome message.

Has Quora helped you in any way?

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