Volume 4, No. 1
July 7, 2008
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The Myth of Off the Record
I think TV and movies have created a popular belief that "off the record" is an acceptable journalism practice. Reporters are trained to get their information on the record. They want to attribute it to a specific source. If you tell a reporter that what you are saying is "off the record," she will likely not appreciate it. She may tell you anything you say is on the record. Some reporters will tell you they don't accept "off the record" information.
The Rule About Off the Record
Never say anything to a reporter that you don't want to see in print, read on the internet, or hear on the news.
If you're asked a question you're not authorized to answer, tell the reporter to whom she should talk instead. The reporter may also ask you if there is someone else she should interview.
Not For Attribution
Occasionally, there will be an unidentified source quoted in a story. These are special circumstances. Editors want reporters to identify their sources. However, in major news stories, where the only way to attribute the information is to use unidentified sources, editors will allow it. The reporter agrees with the source that the quote will be "not for attribution."