Lesson for Campaign Bloggers: How "Off the Record" Works

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Feb 06, 2007 7:53 PM

I just received an email from a presidential campaign operative who was critical of one of my recent posts.  

Somewhere in the middle of the email, the writer added this sentence:

"Please note that this info isn’t attributable to myself or to my campaign."

... I get several of these a day (usually the grammar is better). 

Now, because I have actually worked on campaigns, I have a lot of empathy for anyone whose job it is to get people like me to write favorably about their boss (or, in this case, write negatively about their opponent(s).  But I wanted to make one very important point about public relatons:

... You cannot send me information -- and then tell me that it is "off the record."

Frankly, I'm not sure how someone who does not understand this would get a job working for a presidential campaign.  But just for the record, here's how "off the record" works:

Operative: Can we talk off the record?

Me: Yes.  Of course.

Operative: (Juicy tidbits).

Do you see how it works?  You get me to agree to talk off the record ... before you tell me what you don't want to see in print.  The reason for this is that I very well might say, "no."

A person is under no obligation to keep something "off the record" if you tell it to them before both parties agree it's off the record. 

Now, I'm not out to "out" anyone -- especially a Republican campaign.  (I would hope conservative bloggers would not be out to get me if the situations were reversed.)

I'm writing this because the next guy won't be so nice (I sincerly hope these folks don't do this with the MSM).