“Don’t Jump Off-the-Record”

Washington Post ombud Andrew Alexander reports that BNA (Bureau of National Affairs, Inc.), “which produces an array of print and online publications covering everything from tax issues to labor law,” is attempting to tackle the problem of “public officials insisting their remarks be off-the-record when they address large audiences” by

asking news industry associations and Washington media outlets to sign on to a draft letter that urges Congress, federal agencies and the Obama administration to end the practice.

…[T]hey ultimately plan to send [the letter] to press secretaries…

Said BNA’s Toby McIntosh: “If you speak before a large audience in an open meeting or when press are invited, don’t jump off-the-record.”

Or else…

Off-the-record seems to involve/be used for/mean different things to different people, different reporters, even — I’ve had a reporter email me information with “off-the-record” as the subject line when, to me ( and I’m guessing, to that reporter, ordinarily) it’s an agreement arrived at beforehand by source and reporter together about how to use the information that will be exchanged and how to identify from where that information has come. It’s great that BNA is trying to do something about one particular off-the-record issue, but government officials aren’t the only folks who attempt to “jump off-the-record.”

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.