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Off the record

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Johnny Dangerously, Feb 3, 2009.

  1. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    From another thread:

    A friend of mine was written up at work last fall when he wrote an entry on his prep blog and mentioned a conversation he had with a reporter at another paper. Didn't run it by said reporter, who saw it and asked to be removed from it. My friend's SE caught wind (smaller paper) when the other reporter's SE sent an e-mail also asking. Said conversation wasn't 'on the record,' which was true.

    Because I doubt the two reporters agreed to go "off the record," let me present another paragraph, slightly altered:

    A friend of mine was written up at work last fall when he wrote an entry on his prep blog and mentioned a conversation he had with a coach at one of the high schools. Didn't run it by the coach, who saw it and asked to be removed from it. My friend's SE caught wind (smaller paper) when the coach's AD sent an e-mail also asking. Said conversation wasn't 'on the record,' which was true.

    Philosophical (and ethical) question: If you require an agreement of "off the record" and assume the absence of such an agreement means everything is on the record, can you selectively apply this rule? It's enforced for coaches and other sources but not for "us" in the business?

    Putting aside the fact that it's not usually advisable to quote other reporters (although this was a blog), is it fair to have one set of rules for reporters and one set for everyone else?

    We've had the "off the record" discussion many times, and as I recall the majority with an opinion believes everything is on the record unless the reporter and source agree otherwise. That said, how do you suppose those outside the business would feel if they knew reporters were exempt from the rules they've established for anyone who's not in the business?

    I know people will post variations on a theme of "Well, that's different," but should it be? I've seen reporters shooting the shit and laughing at each other's one-liners, and then one says, "Can I quote you?" Would that same courtesy be extended to a coach, or would the same reporter just use the quote if it came from a coach but not if it came from another reporter? Do you assume every conversation with another reporter is off the record but every conversation with a source is on the record unless explicitly stated otherwise?

    Maybe I've been off the beat for too long, but I think this would make an interesting discussion.
  2. forever_town

    forever_town Well-Known Member

    I'd rather err on the side of making sure everything is either on the record or off before I say something. I'd say that for a player, a coach or a fellow journalist.

    I'd like to think some of our ethical dilemmas can be solved with a little common sense.
  3. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    Nothing's OTR, but if you aren't fair and blindside someone by using quotes they didn't expect, don't expect to ever have a private conversation with them again.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    There are precious few situations where a writer should be quoted in a paper where he doesn't work.

    The most common is in regards to an award (Heisman, HOF, MVP etc...)

    Other than that, I mentioned another writer by name in my copy four times in 12 years as a writer.

    Once was when Dick Schaap had died and a coach I was covering was very close with him, it made my notebook.

    Once, a writer was struck in the throat with a baseball during a game and was taken to a hospital. It made my notebook.

    Once, a writer at another paper had died unexpectedly and the coach commented on it. It made my notebook.

    Once a writer and a radio guy got into a fight in the locker room after a game and because of the ruckus, the star player (who everybody was waiting for) was not made available. I did not mention either of the parties by name, but when the local news did, the desk put the names in my sidebar.

    There are situations where you do it, but it should be very, very rare.

    Anyone who does it regularly is a fucking hack.
  5. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    If another writer quoted me on something I said in the press room or during a game, I might have to go Gregg Doyel on him... ;D
  6. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    OK, but this wasn't in a paper ... it was on a blog. Same deal, I assume?
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

  8. I would agree. Blogs - access wise - are no different papers, anyone can read them.

    The situation you describe happened to my old boss a few years ago. ...
    He, a SE, and another writer at a bigger paper were talking ... shooting the breeze over the phone about preps this and that.
    A few days later my boss and his comments were mentioned in the guy's column. My boss was pissed.
    My boss, nor the writer in question, didn't say anything about being off the record, but my boss damn sure didn't know he was being quoted either. He was talking to a colleague.
    I think the writer was flat out wrong to quote my boss in that situation.

    Bare minimum, you need to at least tell the writer you intend to quote him or mention that you are either doing a story and want a quote or you would like to use said comment ... If the comment was between just two people.
    If its a statement made in a press box or in front of more than one person. it's fair game.
  9. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Agreed, for the most part.

    If it's a private conversation between two people who happen to be reporters, I don't see how that can be automatically on the record (until agreed-to otherwise), like it would be for so-called sources. When you're talking to a source, you're supposed to make it clear who you're representing (i.e. the paper) before you begin the interview. That's what makes the conversation "on the record."

    But I suppose some people might be in the camp that a reporter is on the job 24/7 and you can't ever take that hat off, even when you're off the clock, so every conversation you ever have with anybody would conceivably be "on the record".
  10. Gomer

    Gomer Active Member

    Precisely, but anyone quoting people so frivolously wouldn't last in the business very long. It would be tough to do stories when nobody talks to you anymore.
  11. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Yep. It seems to me, in J_D's first example, that the reporter was deceiving the other person by quoting a conversation they had when it wasn't made clear that the first person had his "reporter hat" on at the time. Not much different from misidentifying yourself to a source so you can get them to talk when they otherwise wouldn't. Yeah, you might get your quote but there's an ethical boundary there.
  12. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Can you imagine if it got to the point where we had to watch everything we said in a press room for fear that some fuck is going to put it in his story/blog?
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