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Off the record/e-mail

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Jake_Taylor, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    So I was exchanging e-mails with a source this morning and one came to me with the subject line: OFF THE RECORD.

    Now he gave me some background that will probably help me later on, but I'm not planning on using anything specifically from the e-mail. My question is how off the record works in an e-mail?

    Did I agree to keep it off the record by opening it? Could I use it if I wanted because I never told him I agreed it was off the record?
  2. Flying Headbutt

    Flying Headbutt Moderator Staff Member

    How many people know the difference between off the record and on background as well?
  3. A source cannot unilaterally (or retroactively) claim something to be off the record.

    That said, if you want to maintain a relationship with said source, it's probably best not to be semantical about the issue.
  4. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Talk to him, work it out. It isn't off the record if you didn't agree to it first, but you need to explain to him how it works.
  5. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    In this case, like it is 99 percent of the time for me, it's no big deal that he wants it off the record. Certainly not worth making an issue over.

    It was just that after the fact I wondered about e-mail and if that changes the game. I could see how somebody might think opening an email with a subject: OFF THE RECORD might means I'm implicitly agreeing that it's off the record. I don't agree, but I could see how they might.
  6. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    It's an interesting hypothetical question, but one that I don't think will ever come into play in the real world.

    I can't imagine someone emailing something so explosive that you feel you absolutely must get it into print, and there is no other way to get it on the record.
  7. Tom Petty

    Tom Petty Guest

    well, a guy felt compelled enough to start a damned thread concerning the topic.

    how does that make you feel?
  8. Jake_Taylor

    Jake_Taylor Well-Known Member

    Well, the guy in this case once e-mailed a statement to my paper to say he had no comment, then went on to type a 500-word comment. So with him you never know. :)
  9. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

    I think the point is people sometimes jump willy nilly into being "off the record" likes it's base for a game of hide and seek.

    The reporter has to agree for a conversation to be off the record. And both parties need to understand what they are agreeing to. It's serious stuff.

    So I never liked going off the record. I would tell people no. Or ask what they wanted to go off the record about.

    Some high school coaches will start talking and in the middle of a conversation say, "That's off the record."

    What the hell is that?

    So I am chintzy with allowing people to go off the record, unless they are folks I normally would not quote such as PR or SID types anyway.

    I chat with sources, but if they say something interesting. I stop and say, "Can I use that?" Or "can I quote you?" and whip out the notebook.

    "Off the record" is not something to be used by any old Tom, Dick, Harry or prep softball coach.
  10. zebracoy

    zebracoy Guest

    Agreed on the point that there has to be some agreement that material is to be used off the record. By opening the e-mail, you're not making that agreement, since he typed the material before you agreed to receive it.
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