Reporters hear it far too often: “I’ll tell you, but this is off the record.”
Most often, the reporter will say agree, but truth be told, there’s no such thing as off the record.
Even if the recorder is off, the microphone is down and the pen is off the paper – notes are still being taken.
As reporters, we’re trained to remember details, movements, mannerisms. Sounds, inflections, tone. There’s a reason why we numbly nod, smile and stare. We’re memorizing words. Soaking in our surroundings.
I have names, places and dates seared into my mind that I’d like to forget, but can’t because at the time I locked them in.
People ask to go off the record for valid reasons. Fear and privacy come to mind.
And it’s at that point when I decide it’s not my story to tell.