Crikey Clarifier

Oct 15, 2012

Crikey Clarifier: are we on or off-the-record?

Jonathan Marshall found himself part of the Alan Jones story amid confusion over what publishing rules applied. Crikey intern Sally Whyte breaks down the journo code.

Alan Jones and Peter Slipper aren’t the only public and private individuals who have discovered, after the fact, a comment can sound quite different in newsprint. A journo’s sources may also expect protection from backlash without actually saying how. “You didn’t hear this from me, but …” — it’s the start of a great story, but can it be published?

Off and on-the-record, on background and Chatham House rule are part of everyday vocabulary for journos to get the scoop and pollies to get leverage in Canberra. It’s a difficult code to crack for an outsider, especially when one person’s “off-the-record” can mean “publish without my name” and another can mean “keep this quiet”.

Free Trial

Proudly annoying those in power since 2000.

Sign up for a FREE 21-day trial to keep reading and get the best of Crikey straight to your inbox

By starting a free trial, you agree to accept Crikey’s terms and conditions


Leave a comment

4 thoughts on “Crikey Clarifier: are we on or off-the-record?

  1. izatso?

    Off the record, Tony Abbott has ordered that all Conservatives deny themselves the use of their peripheral vision, due to the shortage of blinkers (another free market stuff up, dont look), but to watch carefully for the traffic. It’s true, google the sucker …..

  2. gdt

    The point of the Chatham House Rule is missed. It is to allow policy debate without one’s personal views (which are of course informed by one’s role) being attributed to the role. Because one’s name is often strongly associated with the role, all attribution is forbidden.

    Without such a Rule is difficult for public servants, military staff and employees to comment meaningfully on policy; rather they would be restricted to repeating the latest uttering of their minister/general/boss.

    The Rule isn’t intended for use at fund raiser booze ups. Alan Jones said nothing about policy which he had not already said in public.

  3. by the sea

    As any person who was born after 1985 and has Facebook or tweets or what was it MySpace can tell you the world of public v private is very blurry indeed. I took to demanding from Facebook I be removed. I was turning myself in as a fraud, my real name was not who I claimed and I had no I was not Dirty Harry though my photo says so.

    Private lives are in many senses evaporating in the heat of the www sun. You have a smartphone you can record. Yes there is defamation but that akin to my kid downloading gangum style from the web. Yes he is a personal private pirate. Whatshisface is not about to sue my kid for piracy gangum style no Alan jones is going to sue some hack journo who isn’t ever going to be paid for their work like a ‘real’ journo might for exposing some of the private matters that well never you mind…

    Gonzo might just Out a few people this way. Journos have ethics, they agree not to out each other which can it be said is good for fellas like Al Jones. If Alan can hide behind the skirts of the veil of media like some altar to free speech he should be careful about the company he keeps. SydUni included

    He seems set on tearing some part of the fabric of personal comment of our PM, while hoping his veil says in tact

    The www is changing the game. Some kid just might out some big guy through the www then it is a house of cards. I don’t know which is worse.

    Do defamation and slander laws keep the place holding together or are we just immune or complacent hoping like he’ll the house stays up.

    I have not bought a newspaper in months. I through out foxtel.

    Crikey where’s this all heading?

  4. klewso

    Doesn’t this depend on your regard for your source?
    Didn’t Brissenden “come out” after one of the others (at that “dinner/lunch”?) did?

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details