What Does ‘Off the Record’ Really Mean?

There’s a lot of confusion about the phrase ‘off the record’. For most reporters this doesn’t mean ‘this is not to appear in the article’ but rather ‘not for attribution’ – in other words you can put this information in the piece, but please don’t let my name be attached to it. If you don’t want what you say to appear at all, get their agreement that this is for background only and not to appear in any form, perhaps because you want to brief reporters to give them a better understanding of a sensitive issue, or to steer them away from writing something that is inaccurate. Reporters normally stick to their word in this area, as no-one will return their calls if they get a reputation for being untrustworthy – but you can’t rely on it. [Taken from the book The M-Factor by Tom Maddocks.]