MetaMedia: On the record

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 Illustration by Alexandra Nelipa

Illustration by Alexandra Nelipa

Information is only as reliable as its source.

The job of a journalist is to get information from the best-informed sources possible

Sometimes getting that information comes with strings attached.

When a source does not want to attach a name to information for various reasons, it is known as “off-the-record” information.

Information considered off-the-record can vary from source to source. Off-the-record information gives journalists additional background information, which can point them in the right direction.

Information from a public meeting or statements given to a journalist are considered on-the-record information, which is publishable.

Once the information is given, it is on the record and cannot be taken back.

Since there are no clear rules on what off-the-record entails, it is important that all parties involved know what they are getting into.

To go off-the-record, the source must let the journalist know before the information is given. The journalist must agree to the conditions about what cannot be used or attributed.

Unless the journalist is told beforehand, any comments said before being asked to go off-the-record is publishable.

Off-the-record information the journalist can verify elsewhere can and will be used.

Every anonymous source a journalist uses chips away at the credibility of the media. And information that a journalist knows but cannot publish serves no one.


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