Columbia j-school says public lectures are ‘off the record’

The Cutline
The public was allowed at last night’s Columbia Graduate School of Journalism event featuring Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, and yet his lecture was designated “an off-the-record conversation.” Other journalism school-sponsored public events have been described as off the record, too. Joe Pompeo writes:

Can public events ever be considered “off the record”? The term—which signifies that a reporter cannot, under any circumstances, use a source’s remarks for publication—only really makes sense in the context of one-to-one agreements between scribes and sources. And the effort to put public events “off the record” is all the more puzzling when it comes at the behest of the world’s best known graduate journalism program—which is, after all, charged with instructing students in the basic tenets of reporting, editing and publishing.

> More on Columbia’s OTR lectures from John Koblin

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  • Anonymous

    As a longtime journalist, I learned long ago one true fact. NOTHING is ever off the record. If you believe it is, you’re a fool. Even if requested, most people find the comment sometimes gets back to them. Columbia’s attempt to have a public forum that is off the record is delusional at best.

  • Ryan Holeywell

    This smacks of elitism from Columbia. Seems like the attitude is that the “insider” group — students and other friends of the university — can handle this information; but “outsiders” cannot.

    Also, I think media reporters should feel free to report these events as they see fit. Whether a flak says it’s on the record or off the record is completely irrelevant if the event truly is open to the public. At that point, the journalist isn’t trading access for conditions such as an OTR request. He is simply a member of the public repeating what he sees and hears.

  • Anonymous

    this off-the-record policy is so thoroughly stupid as to make one wonder about the sanity of those asking for and granting it.

    first of all, exactly what state secrets could a magazine editor possibly have? this, after all, is NOT an example of national security. it is hard to imagine that such secrets could even exist. what are the examples in past lecures that actually support these off-the-record arguments?

    columbia’s defense of the secrecy policy — which is itself a thorough, total embarrassment, laughable — is that students attending the lecture might somehow be deprived of information so critical that their futures might, well, might be in jeopardy. huh? is columbia serious?

    a “secret” that is revealed to a 300-member audience is no longer a frigging secret. it is a stunning admission that some at columbia actually believe such secrecy is possible much less defenseable.