1. Welcome to SportsJournalists.com, a friendly forum for discussing all things sports and journalism.

    Your voice is missing! You will need to register for a free account to get access to the following site features:
    • Reply to discussions and create your own threads.
    • Access to private conversations with other members.
    • Fewer ads.

    We hope to see you as a part of our community soon!

The classic "off the record" conundrum

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by bigpern23, Aug 14, 2007.

  1. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Coach gives me quote, then says, 'Wait are you typing this?' To which I reply, 'Of course.'

    He suddenly gets hesitant, says, 'Aww, man, you can't use that. I'm trying not to get myself in trouble here.' (There are possible legal ramifications to this story)

    I say, 'Sorry, Coach Hornblower, I have to use that, that's the money quote right there. It's a perfectly fair answer to what SoandSo said.'

    We spar back and forth for a bit as I try to convince him what he said is no big deal and we don't really resolve it. Instead, we move on to other topics and he makes it perfectly clear (and I agree) that certain things from there on out are off the record. He promises me a follow up at which he'll spill the beans, but he has to talk to his lawyer first (to be honest, I don't think he's going to say anything his lawyer would advise against).

    Now, after hanging up, I know I CAN still use that quote. Now I just have to decide if I SHOULD use that quote. I told him quite clearly that wanted to use it and he wasn't too keen on it. After writing the story, I think I could get away with a paraphrase that would get the gist across.

    So now I have to decide if it's worth risking the follow-up, which could yield some great stuff, for this quote, which is great -- and a perfect retort to a quote from SoandSo. It's a classic GM type decision -- do I go with the upside of the follow up, or the known quantity of the quote. Decisions, decisions.

    I guess I just needed to vent as I contemplate the decision.

    PS -- After busting my ass on this story all day, I'm convinced of two things ... people watch too many movies about reporters going off the record and Woodward and Bernstein, for all the great they did with Watergate, really screwed us with this "anonymous sources" crap. :)
  2. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I would also weigh in the ramifications of the coach's reaction. While you're not exactly burning him, you are sort of hanging him out to dry.

    It sounds to me that you might get a better story if you hold off, not to mention earn this coach's respect for some time to come. Unless there is competition that could beat you to it, I would hold off.
  3. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    The story will run, it's just a matter of whether to put the quote in. After writing it with the quote and without, I think it's fine without and if that gets me a bit more into his good graces for the follow up, I think it's probably worth it to go without it.

    Upon re-reading the story, I don't think it loses much, if any, steam without the quote.

    This has been a fun day, though. One of those days that gets you juiced up as you chase a big story. This is the kind of stuff I don't think I do enough of in sports. Chasing down leads pursuing a story you know is going to piss off roughly 90 percent of the community. Forty percent will think I'm taking one side, 40 percent will think I'm taking the other and the other 10 will just flip me the bird because I'm ugly. 8)
  4. bigpern23

    bigpern23 Well-Known Member

    Oh, and I don't think I'd be hanging him out to dry. He knows what I'm like as a reporter (fair) and actually said that was the only reason he called me back. I made it pretty clear I wanted to use the quote, so it's not as if he'd be blindsided. I just think I might get more value out of holding it than running it.
  5. TyWebb

    TyWebb Well-Known Member

    I agree. Go for the upside.
  6. DGRollins

    DGRollins Member

    Most will understand this, but...

    Off the record is, of course, fiction. You are a reporter, every thing someone tells you is on the record.

    However, as a reporter you are only as good as your sources. And if you burn one....

    It's a cost benefit thing, really. Is the quote so good that using it is worth the potential damage it will do to your relationship with the source (doesn't sound like it, in this case).

    However, the coach has a responsibility here as well. As a public figure he should know damn well that everything he says to a reporter is fair game.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page