Call it virtual shoeleather. For local reporters, it seems, the coffin nail of newspaper classified sections, is fertile ground for finding sources. In a May 26 post, Washington Post staff writer Ernesto Londoño asks the bike-riding folk of D.C. for their rip-off tales to help with a bike-theft story he’s working on:

I recently joined the growing ranks of D.C. residents who’ve had their bike stolen. During the course of filing a police report and shopping for a new bike, I heard tons of crazy stories about the underground world of stolen bikes in town. I also heard about the amazing lengths some people have gone to in the pursuit of their stolen bikes. So I decided to write a story about it. I want to hear more stories. The wackier the better. E-mail me yours:

Surely Londoño received tons more stories. But it looks like he also may have piqued the interest of a copycat. On May 31, this post popped up in the bikes-for-sale category:

Have you had a bike stolen? Did you recover it? If so, shoot me an e-mail. I’m a freelance journalist researching a story about what happens to stolen bikes. All I would need from you is a brief interview.
Thanks so much.

On May 27, another reporter posted, this time in the items wanted section:

Hello, I got a job as a reporter in Prince Georges County, Maryland and I am looking for story ideas, could some one please give me some ideas?

How about one about the underground world of stolen bikes?