Rahm, Off the Record

How much should you talk to someone off-record if they refuse to go on?

The latest installment in the media’s long-running series of articles about Rahm Emanuel is also the lengthiest: Peter Baker’s profile of the White House chief of staff in the forthcoming New York Times Magazine runs nearly 8,000 words. But in linking the story when it went live online Monday, the prominent blogger Kevin Drum excerpted barely a dozen words: “Emanuel, who declined to talk to me on the record for this article….” And he asked:

Isn’t this basically a big trumpet that says Emanuel did talk to Baker, but only off the record? Is that kosher?

With respect to the first question: It sure looks like it. As for the second, we’re interested in what you think. On a story like this, should journalists not speak with their subjects off the record, in order to avoid having their views shaped by conversations they can’t share with readers? Or is more information always better? And if there’s some middle ground, where would you draw the line? Also: when journalists do talk to subjects off the record, do they have an obligation to let readers know? Let us know what you think in comments below.

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The Editors are the staffers of Columbia Journalism Review.