- “On vs. Off the Record”
I have been asked many times outside my work hours what “on the record” means and when I’m allowed to wield that power. In a nutshell, the minute I acknowledge I’m a reporter, what my affiliation is, and start asking questions (which you then answer), I can use anything you say unless you first say “This is off the record” before our conversation continues. This can’t be brandished after the fact though…only BEFORE. I understand why this can be upsetting…if you say something that’s not articulated very well or spoke with the correct grammar, well, that’s what I’ve been dealt. But the reason for the rule is this – imagine if I conducted a thorough interview only to be met with “Oh by the way, you can’t use any of that.” It would be a complete waste of both our times, would it not?
- “No Comment”
More often than not, I feel giving no comment is worse than giving a comment that may or may not be well received when it comes to a troubling issue. The “no comment” or “this person referred to an official statement” can make it seem that the subject has something to hide, or is at the very least choosing to be distant with the public. So when it comes to speaking up or not speaking at all, just imagine what the end result will look like on paper.
- “Can You Fix It?”
Where journalism and public relations deviate lies in each’s objective. The goal of public relations professionals is to promote their clients whereas journalists simply report what is – the good, the bad and the ugly (which I always thought was a weird phrase because “bad” and “ugly” are synonymous). I’ve been told “You should write about _________ like this…” or have had it implied that my job is to be a Fix-It Felix when in actuality, my job is to report what is happening now, not what should or shouldn’t be. I do have my own opinions on these matters but I do my best to keep them from slipping into my writing. Can I fix your problems? Maybe. But not when I’m on the clock.
- “If You Through Read the Materials…”
NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I don’t have time to become a bona fide expert on pharmaceuticals, quilting or medieval French poetry. DO NOT give me 50+ pages’ worth of information in lieu of speaking with me or feel that it’s okay to be offended when I ask a “dumb” question because I may not be as well versed on the subject matter. You’re the expert and that is why I want to talk to you. Rewriting textbook info in my stories just doesn’t have the same human touch to it.
- “Can I Call You Back in a Few Days?”
Not really. I crank out a story a day and you’ll probably forget about me in the next hour. Not to sound like a hormonal teenage girl attached to her cell phone, but PLEASEEEEEE call me back…soon.
- “So What’s Your Name Again?”
And like a hormonal college frat boy at a bar, I will probably struggle with remembering names. I’ve only just started and I already have a contact list going up the wazoo. Plus I’m terrible at remembering names in my personal life. Please don’t be hurt if I forget your name…but I do remember what you do and what your story is!
- “How did you find me?/How did you know that?”
In the words of Barney Stinson – please. Your social media settings probably aren’t as secure as you think they are – plus I’ve gotten ahold of sources that don’t even have much of a digital footprint. There’s always someone who knows someone who knows someone. And unless you’re Amish and shun modern inventions, I shall find you – or someone else who can. 🙂
- “Want Coffee?”
Um. Not even a question. I did say I was a reporter, right? Substitute it with wine after 5:00, though.