Sometimes a reporter would call back to make sure that what I was going to be quoted on was during the "on the record" portion of the conversation.
Most reporters, back in the day, would simply not talk to me about a particular subject if it was going to be off the record. They would rather take their chances getting the information from someone else; rather than being foreclosed from using anything I told them.
This all requires a high degree of trust between reporters and sources. Only once in my entire career has a trusted reporter quoted me by name on something that was supposed to have been on background.
It was a late night interview, the reporter was on deadline, and he simply made a mistake which was corrected in the next edition of his newspaper. This was pre-Google so I don't even know if it still exists.
Most of the news organizations that have been invited to these off the record sessions with the Attorney General have refused to attend. The Senior Justice Department official in the nation, who is at the center of a burning controversy over approving surveillance of a senior reporter, James Rosen, does not get to tell his side of the story to people who are forbidden to use what he says.
If anything, these off the record invitations are making things even worse for the Obama White House. This isn't Chicago where your desk in the press room at city hall will suddenly disappear if you don't play ball.
This is the big leagues and the Obama Administration is going to have to learn - after five years - to play at this level.
And that's, on the record.
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