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Broken Record

May 30, 2013
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According to CNN this morning, “Attorney General Eric Holder’s plans to sit down with media representatives to discuss guidelines for handling investigations into leaks to the news media have run into trouble.” Specifically, by Thursday morning, May 30, the Associated Press, New York Times and CNN had objected to plans for the meetings to be off the record and were declining the invitation. Politico, of course, accepted, but if you know about Politico’s intellectually immature inside-the-Beltway mentality and its rejection of journalism’s core values, you’d understand why. (As of this posting, the Washington Post had not declined.) Although this story may evolve significantly over the next five days, comment below with your thoughts about the whole whistleblower-leaks-media mess. Please keep your remarks focused on journalism and not politics.

Since we’ll be talking about law and ethics next week, we’ll be bringing this blog topic and last week’s, about mug shots, into our discussions Tuesday and Thursday.

Deadline: 7 p.m. Monday.

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30 Comments leave one →
  1. May 31, 2013 4:03 pm

    James Madison was a genius, a man before his time in thought and action. He not only helped mold our constitution, one of the greatest documents of governance in world history, but wrote the Bill of Rights, which secured America’s place as a democracy.

    He foresaw moments like this, in theory, when the government would go beyond it’s rightful authority and invade upon the privacy of the press. Holder’s actions are invasive, offensive, and unbecoming of his office. More so, he intends to attempt to narrow the freedoms of the press through guidelines and rules.

    “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    If ever so more powerful a sentence was ever uttered in the name of freedom and democracy, I have yet to hear it. It was meant to mean something, it should mean something, and it damn sure does to those who fought to defend it.

    Holder deserves to be removed from office for his transgressions.

  2. Mallory Steele permalink
    June 2, 2013 12:12 pm

    I think the idea of going off the record is not a good one. There have been many cases of journalists conducting conversations “off the record” that later attribute the information to an anonymous source. This is a violation of the source-reporter agreement. Many journalists and government and political operatives can spin, distort, or even lie off the record since they leave names out of it, everyone remains anonoymous. I believe it results in more problems and more of that “he said” and “she said” schenanigans.

  3. Evan Nader permalink
    June 2, 2013 3:10 pm

    Though not one of them, many people are compelled to stories such as Eric Holder’s. I cannot stand hearing about he said-she said stories because the media spends so much time covering them; and, in the end, most of the perceived information is discovered to be untrue. In the case of Eric Holder, the truth will come out whether he authorized the search warrant or not. In regards to whistle-blowing, I believe that it can be benevolent to the public: so long as it is the truth.

  4. June 2, 2013 4:40 pm

    going off record is slightly risky because while journalist are supposed to go strictly by the truth, While stories off record may be converted and mislead the public. It doesn’t follow the ethics of journalism and might even cause more problems than actually solving them. Although the case of Eric wanting to sit down and address the media about the investigation leaks I don’t think trying to force the truth is the right way to handle the situation.

  5. Cantrella Canady permalink
    June 2, 2013 10:05 pm

    I’m not very passionate about this subject however I feel that Mr. Holder’s decision to speak with the media representatives about guidelines regarding the investigations is a smart move. Allowing the public to know what’s on the table helps settle suspicions as they’re already raised surrounding the whole whistle-blower leaks in the first place. I think that the media has taken a great stance as far as exposing every piece to this puzzle every step of the way up to this point.

  6. Jesse Namour permalink
    June 2, 2013 10:21 pm

    I find this subject extremely interesting and I am personally on the fence about this one. Eric Holder may have his reasons for wanting to meet and discuss some of the recent problems in leaking information off the record, however I believe that the public has a right to know what these meetings discuss and journalist should have the freedom and liberty to report the news as they wish. I also feel that by forcing the media to stay off the record, the journalist may then twist the story and leak out only certain information which makes for a faulty news cast.

  7. Victoria Trujillo permalink
    June 2, 2013 10:51 pm

    People who go off record make it seem like they really do not know much about what they’re talking about. It’s just a way to pass the time as they get paid for talking about junk they do not really care about. Being the one who translates the truth have to be on point. They are the ones that the viewers need to count on to speak the truth about the news. We need to be able to know that they care about whatever topic they’re covering. Having someone who is immature to deliver the news may have a little humor into it but can the viewer really spot the truth from the words that are being said? Usually meetings are meant to be within a group of people, so it may be full of secrets that are kept from the outsiders. Though as much as I understand this, the viewers need to know the truth, not the “truth” that is masked by lies.

    Journalist are meant to deliver the whole truth.

  8. Emery Ramaswami permalink
    June 3, 2013 12:23 am

    I do think that something should be done about the major incorrect news leaks that have been occurring lately in our news media. This is a problem that should be addressed by the news channels, apologized for, and fixed. However, I feel that by going off the record with this issue is the wrong decision to make. This is because going off the record implies that there is a confidential explanation or information not meant for publication. If the major news media were to deal with the problems in this manner there would be a lot of negative implications and the public may never get the full story on what choices were made. This is why I think that by denying their participation in these meetings, many of these news sources have protected journalistic rights, and saved the shreds of respect that people may have still had for them.

  9. June 3, 2013 7:18 am

    Journalism comes in many shapes and forms. It is an unfair and dangerous leap to label off the record interviews (as some of the above comments) as absolutely false. Let’s not forget that the scandal which brought down the Nixon administration was wholly off the record in the beginning. I’d say that qualifies as journalism. Did we not learn this in class last week? If there is truth to an off the record testimony then the public will continue to collectively dig…and those involved will eventually buckle.

    With that point in mind, it always strengthens the clarity of a report to disclose sources. If at all possible a journalist should always work to paint the clearest picture for the reader. In situations where sensitive information must be leaked by insiders (such as Watergate), and staying off the record is the only possible course of action for those involved, then it must be done and detailing why the source remains anonymous can add helpful context and meaning.

    In regards to Eric Holder’s request for an off the record meeting – I do not think this would be a constructive use of time…for Holder, or the press. What is the point? It seems more like this is an attempt to casually sweep these issues under the rug and simultaneously appeasing the press rather than having an open, honest discussion.

  10. June 3, 2013 11:05 am

    I believe this is a very interesting and important topic. Media links from journalists have been a major topic in recent weeks in this country. Attorney General Eric Holder had a meeting that started this week to discuss guidelines which is a very important and controversial topic with journalists. During this meeting, Holder promises action on news media monitoring. He also met with a group of journalists Thursday to address his department’s broad-reaching tactics to obtain information in pinpointing individuals who leaked information to the media. This could be just a political ploy to satisfy the journalists temporarily. I would argue that the government has stepped on the toes of journalists, and that Attorney General Eric Holder is trying to appease them with these off the record discussions. However, it appears major media corporations are not buying the ploy. I believe that the public has the right to know what these meetings are discussing and also that journalists should have the freedom and liberty to report the news as they wish.

    Instead, his plan to discuss guidelines for handling investigations into leaks to the news media has run into trouble. Several major media corporations including Reuters, CNN, Fox News, CBS, The New York Times and the Associated Press have declined to meet with Holder on this issue. These news organizations felt their involvement under such ground rules was inappropriate since they continued to cover the leaks investigations as a story.

    Holder is giving the press the chance to express their grievances off the record, but the response from the media has been negative. Holder might be genuine in trying to have off the record meetings, but he has to be more convincing in his arguments to please major media corporations.

  11. Stephanie Rieselman permalink
    June 3, 2013 11:39 am

    In regards to whistle blowers, they have a right to remain anonymous. Their jobs are at stake, or it could lead to bigger ramifications (such as their safety, or their families safety) if they leak information and don’t remain anonymous. It all depends on the situation. I am very on the fence about this because I do see both sides. Going off the record can distort and taint the information the public is receiving. Many people believe it to be risky, as many comments have pointed out above me. As I mentioned before, if it is sensitive information that requires anonymity then I am all for it. In my opinion, the ethics involved in going off the record depends on the situation.

  12. June 3, 2013 11:46 am

    Journalism off the records can pose many problems. I feel it is easier to have false information in reports. Because sources may remain anonymous, a person could lie very easily without worrying about the consequences. There are many ethical issues, but there are also some benefits. On one hand you have to worry about lies from a source, but on the other hand, it may be a more efficient way to get hidden information. The anonymous sources may feel more comfortable in releasing facts or info knowing that they will not be held accountable. It may protect one’s identity while allowing the truth to get out. Although there are pros and cons to off record journalism, I personally am not in favor. I feel the risk is too high for unethical reporting. I do think it is necessary in some cases, but i think it should be kept to a minimum.

  13. Keira White permalink
    June 3, 2013 11:54 am

    I do not believe that Holder should be going off the record with these discussions. I feel that the public will not get the full story and isn’t that what journalism is all about? It is risky to go off the record and that might cause the public to be mislead by possibly twisting the story. It is very easy to report false information when it is off the record. I think that the major news outlets are protecting the credibility of journalism by refusing to attend the off the record meeting with Holder.

  14. Carlos Lopez permalink
    June 3, 2013 12:29 pm

    I think the Associated Press and others are justified in their decision to not meet with the Justice Department off the record. These news sources want to be able to publicly disclose the nature of Eric Holder’s proposed protocol without being doubted; and do not want any potential future leaks to be compromised by his proposed guidelines. They have implicitly rejected any kind of restriction toward interaction with leaks and plan to continue using leaks as they see fit. However, these sources should understand the DoJ’s desire to not have any specific official within its bureaucracy associated with what might be considered controversial policy.

  15. Chad Nicholas permalink
    June 3, 2013 1:50 pm

    Quoting an anonymous person when writing an article about a very serious topic can do a lot of dangers to the information you are delivering to the public. Which is why I never believe all the information I discover when quoted by an anonymous source. These articles tend to be untrue and extremely unethical. Everyone deserves the truth when dealing with very serious issues like the Eric Holder case. Which is why I feel all this whistle blowing should stop immediately.

  16. Jaclyn Oser permalink
    June 3, 2013 3:00 pm

    I really do not like the idea of off the record discussions. I believe the public will not get the whole story and all the true facts if Eric Holder is going off record with discussions. By going off the record, people might be led to believe untrue stories and facts. I do not understand why Holder would want an off the record discussion unless he is trying to hide something big. He should just have an open honest, truthful discussion rather than making the situation shady. Journalism is all about getting to the bottom of a story and reporting it to it’s full and true potential. All the public wants is the truth.

  17. Alex Musil permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:08 pm

    From a news reporting and journalism stand point, the decision that Eric Holder made to keep his discussions off the record can very much effect the way the public receives information on the subject. The whole story will not be told in this way and the word of the journalist won’t really be taken that seriously because we as a public know that it was off the record and can be skewed or misinterpreted.

  18. Karli Gomes permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:14 pm

    Obviously there needs to be something done about the leaked media. However, taking it off the record is not the correct way to approach the problem. There can be more ways to fix these problems, for instance, apologizing to the public is one way to fix media reports in some way. I believe that going off the record seems a bit “sketchy” and leads the public to thinking there is more problems than what there actually is. I do not believe that Eric Holder’s discussions should go off the record because the public will not be able to get the whole story.

  19. Kelsey Nunn permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:25 pm

    I believe Eric Holders choice to keep his decision off record can effect how we as the public look at this information. Taking it off record was not the correct approach to doing something about the leaked media. Going off the record will lead people to make there own assumptions, leading people to believe untrue things, instead of knowing the facts. People will never fully understand the whole story, which I feel is very important. I do not agree with his disses ion should go off the record.

  20. Wyatt Blatt permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:31 pm

    I believe that by ” going off the record” we are destroying the truth and nothing but the truth. I feel that Eric Holder is trying to get all of these News Presses to agree to hiding the truth from the public which destroys the whole purpose of the presses. Their purpose is to report the news to the public as it should, but by altering or not reporting the news as it should than what’s the purpose of even having it? I don’t think we should “take it off the record” because we can handle the truth and thats all we want.

  21. Christopher Larsen permalink
    June 3, 2013 4:55 pm

    Sometimes things are kept classified or “off the record,” for our own safety. With Attorney General Eric Holder offering to keep information on meeting with the Press in secrecy is a little questionable, but it is his option. If the media agrees to an “off the record” meeting then that is there decision. I think that the many of the media companies are declining the invitation because they would only do it for the coverage, and not necessarily to defend our first amendment rights.

  22. Blake Davis permalink
    June 3, 2013 5:03 pm

    Clearly, Eric Holder is not interested in the free flow of information which is a core foundation of journalism. I am disheartened that Holder would want to hold a meeting to discuss a way of preserving the media’s integrity as an independent and free-flowing source of information and keep it a secret. The entire situation is a giant conflict of interest for both parties and a power struggle. Couldn’t the media outlets agree to the meeting and then release the information simultaneously under the guise of “anonymous” sources?

  23. TessaSteele permalink
    June 3, 2013 5:51 pm

    I’m really trying to find out why Attorney General Holder would think an off the record press conference was a good idea. It doesn’t make sense. If the top government official at the center of the story can’t go on record with what he has to say there’s something off about what he wants to say isn’t there? Since the issue is freedom of the press and what seems like unlawful persecution of the press for doing their job, there should be more transparency on the justifications. The only reasoning I can find for going off the record (when not leaking information) is to use the media as puppets- touting you’re own message but making it seem like it is well accepted and has more support/ is more credible than it is or making it seem like you are being cooperative and speaking on the issue or at least taking some action when you aren’t. Perhaps if Attorney General Holder was transparent and stated what he was doing it would be so inflammatory there would be more outrage over this and the Justice Department wouldn’t be able to continue. The Justice Department seems completely out of bounds in accusing The Associated Press of wrong doing and the actions that they’ve taken in violating their privacy and the privacy of their sources. All signs point to the government trying to manipulate or destroy the press. Trying to make a deal with A.P. concerning when they will report news- our government shouldn’t do that. The White House has a press secretary to say what they want to say and spin it the way that they want, that’s not what our news media is for.

  24. June 3, 2013 6:00 pm

    I do not like the idea of the meeting being off the books. We need to be able to trust our news outlets. Deals behind closed doors does not help to promote any trust. However, I do agree that the issue needs to addressed and everything that is discussed needs to be scrutinized by the public. The media are the eyes and ears of the people so what effects them will effect us.

  25. Andrea Voynovich permalink
    June 3, 2013 6:16 pm

    The first amendment and our right of free speech is our most important amendment to protect. Journalists have always been protected in reporting the information that is important for everyone to know and a lot of this information has come from whistle blowers who see something that is not right and want the American people to know. Without this protection our ability to find out this important information is in jeopardy. With all that considered though we must also consider the new age we live in. This new age includes modern technology that can be used by some people to do unethical things (both reporters and informants) like share secrets that could put people in jeopardy if they are revealed. It is time to have some major new conversations and discuss how we can protect our first amendment rights and also keep classified information secret so as not to endanger the lives of our soldiers or our national security. As far as going “off the record” goes I am not sure there is any such thing. “Off the record” just becomes “according to an anonymous source”, or is used to get another source to talk or confirm a story. If you really feel you have something so important to say that it effects other people why would you want it to be off the record and that includes Mr. Holder.

  26. Ryan Kaufman permalink
    June 3, 2013 6:19 pm

    I sympathizes with the news media heads declining a meeting. The idea of information being withheld is not a popular one among serious journalist. Discovering that their own privacy had been breached I believe should have helped create outrage. The government officials who abuse or misuse power must know that there actions have consequences and that records should be readily available to keep the administrative works as transparent as possible. Keeping a meeting of this magnitude off the records is counterproductive to the long term goal.

  27. Emma Hoelscher permalink
    June 3, 2013 6:33 pm

    In my opinion, if someone has to go “off the record” in order to speak openly on a subject that may be touchy or personal or that may be a threat to someone or something, then they should not speak on the topic at all. Having a father in the military I know that publicly he is not permitted to discuss his personal thoughts or feelings on certain topics such as the presidency or other political subjects. But I also know that if presented with the chance, he would not “go off the record” to discuss his thouhts and feelings. If you are in a particular profession, as my father is in the military, you should remain a professional and not speak on the topic until you are permitted to. Misrepresentation of a company or misrepresentation of a particular job title is absolutely unacceptable even if it is “your own personal belief” or “off the record”. For example if the owner of Burger King went off the record and said “I personally would never eat our French fries because the oil we use is recycled car oil” it would directy influence the Burger King company itself, aside from the falsehoods of the statement. Now if this were actually going on within the Burger King company it would be acceptable to report it to a higher source within the company, not directly to the media. Just as if my father saw something being done within the military that goes against the military codes and standards he would report that to the proper people, not directly to the media. It is the responsible thing to do and it is the right thing to do. It is choosing to be a solution to the problem instead of a contributor to the problem. This allows for the problem to be fixed within the company or organization without any unnecessary recoils from bad publicity over something that could have been independently dealt with.

  28. Marissa Weiley permalink
    June 3, 2013 6:50 pm

    When a person or a company representative who is supposed to be “a reliable source” goes off the record, I find it to be very suspicious and unreliable. How can you count on a source to be accurate and honest when nobody is willing to be held accountable for the comment or statement? I do understand how they would want to remain confidential, however the news has a right and a responsibility to report the full story to the public. Things (like the blame, and the true story, for example) tend to get lost in the shuffle when nobody puts their name behind the mysterious statements.

  29. Nick Tavel permalink
    June 3, 2013 11:20 pm

    I think “off the record” is not the best idea to handle this mess, If organizations start going off the record we won’t have evidence to get the truth to the world. If people talk without being recorded or being on the record, everyone can twist and bend the truth the way he or she wants to. If someone can bend the truth the whole world is in their hands It would depend on the customer, or the readers, to decide who is telling the truth and who is bending it.

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