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'Off the record'

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Feb 5, 2007.

  1. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    This has nothing to do with coaches or sources going off the record, this is an incompetent jackass reporter putting things off the record before he finds out what he can get on the record.
    It does not address what we discussed on the other threads about a source saying he wants something off the record and the reporter not challenging it. If you don't challenge it, you are agreeing to go off the record.
    That's how I've replied to 3 of your posts now and you still have yet to address that issue.
  2. sheos

    sheos Member

    Sometimes it gets confusing when someone goes "off the record" for some wacky comment, and then they never mention that they're back on the record though it's pretty clear the latter material is printable. I tend to use good ole common sense in those situations.
  3. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    I've been right every time so far; might as well go for No. 4.

    I want you to send me a check for $10,000. Unless you challenge it, I assume you are agreeing to my terms.
  4. dragonfly

    dragonfly Member

    OK, let's say you do a 20-minute phone interview with a somewhat average joe where you're just pulling teeth to get them to say anything. It's filled with ``no comments'' and ``I don't want to talk about that'' but also some useful information about a very dicey situation. At the end of the conversation, you thank the person for their time and comments. The person then says, ``I don't want anything of my comments in the paper.''

    It's an average joe, but I clearly identified myself as a reporter in the beginning of the interview and, at least seven times during the interview, the person said ``no comment'' to one of my questions, which clearly implies that all other times the person WAS COMMENTING.

    Also, the only reason the person doesn't want their comments in the paper is because the person is accused of some ugly stuff.

    Anyway, after a few minutes of me firmly explaining ``how this works,'' the person asks for my name and how to spell it and informs me that I'll be hearing from their attorney. I give my name, spell it and pass on my editor's phone number and tell them we'd all be happy to speak with their attorney.

    Here's the problem. I don't have this interview on tape. I made a choice not to tape the phone interview because I would've had to inform them in the beginning of the interview that I was doing so and the interview would've ended then and there. This is the kind of person who calls their lawyer when Starbucks messes up their order, so I couldn't risk blowing the whole interview by putting the person on ``lawyer tilt'' from the start.

    Anyway, if this gets messy, will it just be my word against theirs? If so, I'm not sure my transcript of the interview would stand up, or that my shop will even let it go that far for this story. This person is worth more money than God so it definitely could get ugly.

    I'm thinking of using the quotes but not the person's name and choosing a general description of the person. That's kind of a cop-out though so I'm feeling a little stuck.

    Any advice?
  5. huntsie

    huntsie Active Member

    Can you paraphrase the guy or use what he says for background? How important to the story is it that his stuff appear in actual "quotes"? Can you use the information he's supplied and get more or less the same quotes from another "average joe."
    If not, I'd at least explore the issue with your lawyer to see where you stand and if they'll back you.
    Or you can use the stuff, secure in the knowledge that buddy will be pissed and may or may not get over it.
  6. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    Dragonfly: Anyone can have a lawyer, and any lawyer can start the hourly clock by calling you. Doesn't mean he has any legal basis for doing so.

    The guy took your call--he could have hung up. He answered questions, knowing who you are and who you work for.

    'No comment' is also an answer, as in 'When asked about XYZ, Goofball had no comment,' or 'Goofball declined to comment on XYZ.'

    'His word against mine' works both ways.

    Tell your editor, and let the paper decide if it cares about the depth of Goofball's pockets. If that's the deciding factor (and it probably won't be), you should quit.
  7. Guy_Incognito

    Guy_Incognito Well-Known Member

    In the Chris Ballard shot-blocking article there was a parenthetical from Okafor about what he does against a certain player (Arenas?) & a quote with him saying not to print it, that caught my eye.
  8. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I'll start the discussion on the way extreme: You shouldn't use them. I can't think of many, if any sports stories where they would ever be okay. Most often they're used to confirm some element of turmoil within a team or comment on a coaching search. It's just bad journalism, and it's not what journalists were put on Earth to do: Convey the news through some shadow figure who refuses to be identified.

    Whatever news value you think it has, it hurts your credibility more. Maybe not overtly, and not necessarily within the newsroom, but it does. Have the discipline to say no and work harder to get it on the record.
  9. spnited

    spnited Active Member

    Take a good look at your sig pic Starman...that's when you'll get youor check for $10,000.

    Now, again, your incompetent writer asking "off the record" questions has nothing to do with a coach or source wanting to go off the record.

    And, again, if a coach prefaces a comment by saying "this is off the record," and you don't stop him, you are tacitly agreeing to keep it off the record.
    Why is this simple concept so difficult for you to grasp?
  10. Montezuma's Revenge

    Montezuma's Revenge Active Member

    I agree with spnited 100 percent. Hell, he was probably there when the concept of "off the record" was invented. ;D But really, I don't see any good arguments to rebut what he says.

    Star, I generally love our posts. But you're taking a worst-case scenario of some doofus of a reporter and trying to apply it to a different situation. He's giving away the store without finding out what he can get.

    But really, we need to err on the side of ethical here, especially in dealing with regular civilians. It's just not right to hang them out to dry just because they don't understand the nuances of "off the record" and "deep background".

    Oh, and Mizzou has a good common-sense approach to dealing with sources who are used to dealing with the media. You can tell he has actually reported in the real world and isn't just spouting some J-school theory.
  11. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Alma, great post. Every time anonymous sources come up, I think back to the whole Larry Brown to the Cavaliers thing that was going on when Brown was still with the Pistons. How many people had anonymous sources saying it was done? Well, it clearly wasn't done. Brown never went to Cleveland and a whole shitload of news organizations were left with egg on their face.
  12. andyouare?

    andyouare? Guest

    Don't know if this is true at every Gannett outpost, but at my last stop, we were not allowed to use unnamed sources. We had to get them on the record or the story wouldn't fly. Didn't stop any stories from getting published as far as I remember. Of course, we were in the middle of nowhere so nothing much happened.
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