Senate staffers claimed their public tweets were off the record

techPresident
Aides to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., had claimed in their Twitter bios that their publicly viewable tweets should be considered “off the record.” New York Times developer Derek Willis first noted the absurd disclaimer (#notquitegraspingtheconcept) in the profile of New Media Director Catherine Algeri, and the blog techPresident pointed out that Communications Director Seth Larson and Deputy Press Secretary Richard Pezzillo had similar disclaimers. All three removed them after the publicity spread.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lancecollinsgay Edward Allen

    Looks like this is my day for commenting, so this is the last. Consider this as dissenting to the rest of what is on Poynter.  Senate staffers are public employees, and as such should expect their words to be quoted by name. If they do not want this to happen, all they have to do is say they do not wish to be quoted by name. Or they can choose background, which usually appears in a story as “a source” or deep background which means the reporter hangs his or her reputation on what is written. Naturally reporters want names in their stories, so they don’t want unattributed comments and shouldn’t use them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rp509855 Rod Paul

    I’d question the assumption that they were ‘experienced in dealing with the media’ just because they are communcations staffers. My experience has been that a lot of political spokes-flacks had next to zero experience with the media before getting the job.

    Heck, I’ve run into no small percentage of reporters who don’t understand things like ‘off the record’ and ‘on background.’

  • Anonymous

    That’s possible I suppose, though I wouldn’t give press aides any more of a pass for not knowing what they were asking for by saying “off the record.” Ignorance of that would be just as bad.
    It’s also possible that this was a manifestation of the reflexive tendency by many political aides to try to put every conversation or briefing with reporters on background or off the record.

  • Anonymous

    That’s possible I suppose, though I wouldn’t give press aides any more of a pass for not knowing what they were asking for by saying “off the record.” Ignorance of that would be just as bad.
    It’s also possible that this was a manifestation of the reflexive tendency by many political aides to try to put every conversation or briefing with reporters on background or off the record.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    You would think, but from the evidence, it seems pretty clear that’s what they meant. That they wrote the phrase to apply to things they were saying in a public forum is itself proof that they didn’t know what it meant. I’ve had to explain its meaning to flacks many times over the years.

  • Anonymous

    That interpretation seems unlikely to me, considering that these were all communications staffers who would be experienced in dealing with the media and know what the phrase “off the record” means. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504633504 Dan Mitchell

    Hmm. This seems to be more naive clumsiness than anything. From what I can tell, I think they said “off the record” to just mean “not the official word from the Senator, just my personal thoughts.” A little clueless on a phrase they should intimately know the meaning of, though, especially since there were several of them who did it. But it seems disingenuous to characterize them as expecting people to keep treat their tweets as private.