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Finding Sources on LinkedIn

Finding Sources on LinkedIn

Picture of Angilee Shah

I gave a presentation to this year's California Health Journalism Fellows about useful ways to integrate social media into your reporting. (I gave a similar talk this summer to the Online Health Journalism Fellows and shared some of the tools I use in a post in Career GPS.) As always in these kinds of sessions, I learned something new about how to leverage my online networks to be a faster, better reporter.

We talked, of course, quite a bit about Facebook and Twitter as places to find, connect and keep up with sources. But we glossed over LinkedIn, a professional networking site that says it hosts over 135 million profiles and is adding more than two new members per second. It turns out LinkedIn has a lot to offer reporters who want to find sources and information about companies and organizations. It's a kind of Public Insight Network for the social media-savvy professional world.

If you are a professional journalist and have a LinkedIn profile, you are eligible to join the group LinkedIn for Journalists. The main perk of group membership is that you can attend then occasional phone conference training session that not only provides basic information about LinkedIn's features (which you may already be familiar with) but also makes you eligible for a free LinkedIn Pro upgrade for one year.

The moderator is Krista Canfield, a former journalist who is now a senior manager of corporate communications for LinkedIn. Canfield hosted one of these training sessions yesterday and offered some good advice on how to use both the free and paid features of LinkedIn.

"This isn't a place for you to connect with all of your fans. It's not the place to connect with people you don't know," she said. 

Canfield suggests you connect with sources you know, business development or executive spokespeople. If you're a freelancer, connect with your editors and clients. The magic number, Canfield said, is 50 connections because having this critical mass will open you up to a wider network of second- or third-degree contacts.

Once you have made connections on LinkedIn, some of its features could be very useful to you when you are on deadline or doing investigative work.

Advanced People Search

When you are logged in, click on "Advanced" next to the search bar on at the top right of your home page. From there, you can search for employees from a particular company and specify whether you are looking for current or past employees. For example, if you took a tip from Monday's Daily Briefing and want to find out more about The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, enter "The Global Fund" in the company field. The search will return the names of people in your network as well as those who are two or three degrees away from your network. When you click on a profile, you'll see how you are connected to that person on the right.

If potential sources are not first-degree contacts, you can use your connections to get introduced or send messages through LinkedIn if you have a Pro account. Pro accounts also open up more specific search options such as experience level or job function. 

You can also use advanced search to find out how you are networked to the editor of a magazine you'd like to write for or a company you'd like to join. For freelancers, the site can help you find ways to network that are more effective than a cold call. 


LinkedIn also aggregates the information users provide in their profiles to create interesting company pages. When you search for a company, such as The Global Fund or Kaiser Permanente, you'll get a page that shows your connections to the company's employees and, on the right side, "insightful statistics" that can give you leads about what kinds of employees are being hired and thus where a company is headed. These are just leads and should help you ask better questions, not give you data suitable for publishing.

Like search, company pages are useful for finding sources and information, but also can help you with your job hunt. Follow the publications you want to write for to see who are the current editors and staff. Find out how you are connected to the media organizations that you want to work for.

Profile and Settings

If you are job hunting, it is useful to know that your profile is seven times more likely to be viewed if you upload your photo, Canfield said. Also, be sure to list your full job history because employers often search by years of experience, which LinkedIn calculates by what you enter in your profile.

But be sure to look through your account settings. You can choose to hide or show your contact list in privacy options. So if you have connected with a former employee of a pharmaceutical company as well as its current spokesperson, you can be sure they won't see each other on your profile. You can also connect your Twitter account to your LinkedIn status updates and post to both places at once.

To learn more about using LinkedIn to find sources, I also recommend the free webinars from the Reynolds Center at They will host a webinar specifically about using LinkedIn in February.

Canfield also discussed the Answers section of LinkedIn, where you can post questions and direct them to certain segments of your connections or the LinkedIn community as a whole. I haven't had much luck with my reporting from this feature, but if you have found this part of the site useful share in comments or send me an email at

More on social media and your career:

My Favorite Tools for Keeping Up With People on the Internet

Facebook for Journalists: Yay or Nay?

So you're on Twitter and Facebook? What next?


Picture of Trangdai Glassey-Tranguyen

Thank you, Angilee!

Picture of Angilee Shah

You're very welcome! If you have any questions I can answer in this blog, please let me know!


The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 National Fellowship will provide $2,000 to $10,000 reporting grants, five months of mentoring from a veteran journalist, and a week of intensive training at USC Annenberg in Los Angeles from July 16-20. Click here for more information and the application form, due May 5.

The Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 Symposium on Domestic Violence provides reporters with a roadmap for covering this public health epidemic with nuance and sensitivity. The next session will be offered virtually on Friday, March 31. Journalists attending the symposium will be eligible to apply for a reporting grant of $2,000 to $10,000 from our Domestic Violence Impact Reporting Fund. Find more info here!


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