“Reporters spend their lives on the learning curve. They frequently find themselves investigating a subject they know little about. If it involves complicated material — a public budget, a disease, uranium enrichment — it can be a harrowing experience trying to write a story for the next day’s paper.

Reporters working on an investigative or enterprise story usually have weeks or months to dig into a subject. That’s not enough time to become an expert, but it should be enough time to produce a story that experts would respect. For the most part, there’s nothing fancy in getting up to speed on a new subject or a new place. It’s a lot of reading and interviewing. The best reporters are humble enough to ask “dumb” questions (two or three times, if need be), smart enough to know what they don’t know and brave enough to let go of their first impressions.”

Matthew Purdy, The New York Times, May 14, 2007



WHO is an expert?

  • According to John’s Hopkins Magazine, November 2006:  “In general, newspapers don’t have a policy about whom they call an expert,” says Michael Hoyt, executive editor at the Columbia Journalism Review, a well-regarded trade magazine. “You look for someone who knows the beat, someone who doesn’t have a political ax to grind. But it’s really a judgment call. I’m not sure if you could turn that into a policy.”
  • News outlets don’t have a firm grip on the concept of “expertness,” but they should at least make sure that the academics and other authorities they call on are devoid of conflicts, adds Thomas Kunkel, dean of the College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.

What to look for in a credible expert

  • Someone affiliated with a reputable organization, university, etc.
  • Someone who has authored works that have been characterized or identified as authoritative in the field in question, by multiple reputable sources.
  • Someone that has been characterized or identified as an authority in his or her field, by multiple reputable sources.
  • Someone who by virtue of their position (in a government agency, for instance) could be considered to be an authority.


Sources for Finding Experts

Leadership Directories über database of contacts — search by name, organization or keyword. NYC and NYS contacts, US Government Contacts, foreign governments in US, media, universities, associations, etc.

Search Twitter bios for experts using Twiangulate keyword search. You can also compare who leaders in an expertise follow in common.

Universities, hospitals, associations, and organizations will have an expert database or media directory or guide.

Google Scholar to see who’s writing scholarly articles on your topic.

Science Direct (CUNY database) – see who’s writing scholarly articles on your topic.

CUNY CUExperts Website — CUNY faculty and staff experts by topic
To see this in a domain search, type this into Google: “hurricane expert site:cuny.edu”

New York Times Book Review

Amazon.com Advanced Search

Speakers associations — there are many of these, here are examples. Use these to identify experts, and then try to find them directly rather than going through speaker’s association PR:


See who’s quoted them in the past

Nexis Search:

alternative w/2 energ! w/10 (expert or authority or professor or fellow) w/30 (said or says)

Factiva Search:
alternative near2 energ* near10 (expert or authority or professor or fellow) near30 (said or says)

NYC & NY Government and Agencies

New York State Government Employee Directory

NY Think Tanks

State Policy Institute — list of NYC think tanks

Gotham Gazette — list of NYC think tanks

Government and/or DC Experts

USA.gov Mobile

Federal Telephone Directories

Science Direct (CUNY database) – see who’s writing scholarly articles on your topic.

Authoratory is produced by an artificial intelligence computer program, which analyzes millions of articles indexed by PubMed. The articles published by each author are carefully inspected to create a personalized report

ISI Highly Cited is an expert gateway to the most highly influential scientists and scholars worldwide.

Newswise Contact Database of universities, colleges, and other research organizations is designed to help journalists find media contacts.