Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Part of Off the Record Don't You Understand?

I thought I was disgusted with the VMA's before. My disgust just went into hyperdrive.

So the president, while being miked for an interview, was chatting with reporters off the record. The topic of Kanye West at the VMA's came up. The president, bless his heart, had an opinion. And he expressed it under the time-honored rules of speaking 'off the record' with reporters.

One problem. One of the troglodytes who heard the remarks but didn't bother to make sure of its context immediately jumped onto Twit-land to broadcast them.

That would be Terry Moran, the host of Nightline on ABC. I will be remembering his name.

Just an honest mistake, right?

Yeah. One with repercussions for everyone who reports on the news.

Speaking with newsmakers off the record is an integral part of a reporter's job. It is an opportunity to build a relationship, to build trust. It doesn't mean that we keep secrets. It means that we can ask for not only background on a story, which makes sure we really understand all sides of an issue, but it also means we prove to the people we write about that we have integrity.

If I agree that something is off the record, that's the final word. And the fact that sources know I mean it and respect it has made me better at my job. I'm more likely to hear the whole story and be trusted with more on-the-record information because I've proven I'm a professional.

The president undoubtedly feels burned. And well he should. There is a place for being able to relate to each other as human beings. There is a place for creating a good working relationship based on clearly established rules.

One of those rules, one of the central rules to the news business, is knowing that a remark clearly stated off the record is OFF THE RECORD.

Thanks, news moron. You've just made the rest of us have to work twice as hard to prove we're not sensationalist idiots.

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