Finding sources is not as easy as it sounds.

I write for several audiences that range from stay-at-home consumers to liquor trade reps who know more about their brands than company CEOs. The everyday consumer reader wants celebrities, lists, best of stories and comparison articles that are informative but not over the top, while trade guy / gal wants inside industry information.

This past month, I was all out of ideas for my Parade.com column. So, I used the “Help a Reporter Out” service to find “Fun Alcohol Stories.” I knew I’d get some weird pitches.

In the past, source queries have yielded everything from porn producers to lawn mowing services. Their pitches go something like this: “I know you were writing about whiskey, but just imagine how good a whiskey would taste after you didn’t have to mow your lawn. At Johnny Shouldn’t Be Pitching Lawn, we specialize…”

Over the years, these query sites have been extremely helpful and helped me meet deadlines. Consultants, speakers, authors, independent producers, business owners and anybody who wanted some acclaim have used these services to be considered for a reporter’s story.

In 2008, when seeking sources through ProfNet, a porn producer was happy to help with stipulation: “All I ask is you mention Dave Pounder, an adult content producer at Dave Pounder Productions in Boca Raton, FL.”

I thought the guy would make an interesting interview, but knew my editor wouldn’t be pleased. So, I moved onto other sources.

I was reminded of Mr. Pounder and off-target pitches with my recent HARO query.

From Pablo Solomon Beverly Solomon
Artist & Designer Creative Director
musee-solomon: “Drunken sex is more likely to lead to STDs, unplanned pregnancy, date rape, gang bangs, psychological stress, poverty, etc… Sex is too much fun to not be totally enjoyed or for any of it to not 
be remembered due to an alcohol numbed nervous system.
”

Okay, this person doesn’t like drunken sex, but the answer didn’t have anything to do with my query. And why would I care what an artist thinks about drunk sex? Is this even an issue in our country? If he brought up drunken driving or suicide, he might have my attention, but drunken sex? Really?

Sometimes an off-response can lead to an interesting debate.

Dr. Joseph Shrand, Harvard professor of psychiatry and Medical Director
CASTLE, responded to my HARO query:

“Please be cautious and responsible when printing a story like this. Working with teenagers who struggle with addiction the last thing we want to promote is that drinking can be really fun. Alcohol creates a disinhibition of the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for analyzing a situation, making a plan, executing that plan, and anticipating the consequence of that action. Impaired by drinking, or any drug, what may seem to be fun in the moment may carry tremendous consequence. It may be fun to drive fast, but people can get killed.”

Dr. Shrand helps teenagers, and I can understand his concerns, which I share. For the record, the alcohol industry does not market to teenagers. Industry advertising standards require at least a 70% audience of 21 or older for ad placement. But, his comments are also an example of how HARO sources interject opinions without answering the query. Sounds like they’re running for office!

I guess these are just the times we live in, where porn producers, anti-drunk sex artists and Harvard professors are all competing for a quote in a  reporter’s story. Welcome to the New World of Writing.