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Is this fair game?

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Mark2010, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. Mark2010

    Mark2010 Active Member

    OK, so I'm at a college football game and leaving the press box. Bump into an assistant coach from the visiting team. Visiting team has lost the game and their star quarterback is injured late in the fourth quarter. QB is a senior and injury appears to be season and career-ending. QB is tied for conference career record in TD passes, but now may not get to play any more games.

    I say: "Too bad about QB not getting a chance at the record."
    Coach: "A lot of it's on him. He had chances to make plays earlier in the year and didn't get it done."

    Can I use this exchange in a column later in the week?

    On the one hand, I introduced myself but never implied I was doing a formal interview. It was just chit-chat waiting for an elevator. On the other hand, neither said anything about being off the record.

    In my mind, anything heard or said is fair game, unless noted otherwise. Your take?
  2. HandsomeHarley

    HandsomeHarley Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't.

    I might call the school and ask to speak to the coach, tell him who I am, remind him of what he said and ask him if I can use it. But no, when I'm with a coach and it's not an interview, the mic's off. That's just not fair.

    But no, I think people stiffen up enough as it is, just knowing we're reporters. They shouldn't have to be on guard 24/7.

    We wouldn't run a quote from a parent in the stands who makes an off-handed comment about a coach, would we? We still have to maintain integrity.
  3. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    Generally, my policy if is I start chit chatting with someone and they say something I might want to use, I ask if I can quote them on that.

    I don't have to do it. But I think its good to have a comfort zone with coaches and assistants and let them just talk.

    Now, if they said something really newsworthy, all bets are off.

    I don't think that quote is all that great to begin with. You could say that about anyone. It sounds more like the coach doesn't really like the player that much.
  4. Mediator

    Mediator Member

    That coach knows you are a reporter. I don't believe that everything is off the record unless there is a microphone on. That said, you'd never get anything good from him again. So you have to judge whether or not the information is worth potentially alienating him.

    But if he confronted you afterward, you could say that you were at a game, he knows you are a reporter and he didn't say it was off the record. This isn't your pal, it's someone you cover.
  5. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Take what he said, and make some calls. See if you can find a second or third source to corroborate if you're worried about attribution.

    That said, if you introduced yourself, at a game, leaving the pressbox....he knew he was talking to a reporter. This wasn't casual cocktail party chitchat.
  6. JimmyHoward33

    JimmyHoward33 Well-Known Member

    Hard to say without more details about the kid's season but it hardly seems worth it. Unless he had a really bad start to the year, how many more plays could he have made? I mean technically every throw COULD be a TD but that's not realistic. So my first thing would be decide if that the coach said is even accurate? Did the kid leave the record on the table with his own poor play, or is it a case of a badly timed injury/health luck?
  7. Journo13

    Journo13 Member

    Here's a potential solution from a reporting book I read. You can ask the coach to clarify what he said, although keep the old quote in the back of your mind. Remember that the original quote is on the record and can be used. However, unless the coach makes a complete turn-around on you, you can get a good quote while saving grace with the coach.
  8. dkphxf

    dkphxf Member

    I wouldn't use it unless you had the notebook and recorder out and it looked like you were in a position to interview him. But it's always fair game to call him back, ask him a few questions and then ask him the same question you did the elicit what may be the same response.
  9. cyclingwriter

    cyclingwriter Active Member

    Rule of thumb:

    Always follow up with something along the lines of "I am going to use it, let me make sure I got that right."

    However, never give him his option, "Hey, I can make that off record if you want." The coach will almost always say yes to keep the heat of himself, and you may lose a good scoop. Keep your advantage.
  10. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    I wouldn't use it, but like others said I wouldn't "not" use it either. The comment is the a germ of a story, it's not THE story. If the kid is good enough to tie the record and his season/career is over, it obviously warrants a follow-up story. Talk to the kid and see if he feels the same way. Go back to the coach who made the comment and phrase his own comment as a question, something like, "You mentioned that he left some TDs on the table early in the year. What did you mean by that?"
    It really doesn't seem like something worth potentially alienating a source over, but you can work it into a larger story about the quarterback, his legacy at the school, a disappointing end to a great career, etc.
  11. Shoeless Joe

    Shoeless Joe Active Member

    If I'm leaving the press box, story filed, etc., then my day's done and I don't give a shit what some assistant coach said.

    It's an assistant coach.

    The comment wasn't strong anyway. "If he'd made more plays ..." well, if a bullfrog had wings he wouldn't bump his ass. If he'd made more plays then he'd have the record or whatever ... wow, math.

    Anyone geeked over and offhanded comment by an assistant coach in an elevator isn't interested in reporting the news. They just want to stir crap up.
  12. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    I wouldn't use it. Npot worth it.

    The meeting was too informal, and he's an assistant coach.
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