Eric Holder vs. the media: What is ‘off the record’?

Eric Holder vs. the media: What is ‘off the record’?

Major news outlets like The New York Times, The Associated Press, Reuters and others turned down Attorney General Eric Holder’s invitation to meet with him on Thursday, because the talks would be “off the record.”

Everyone knows somebody who is always starting sentences with “for the record,” like a narcissistic nod to a cosmic stenographer chronicling their every move. But just what does “off the record” mean? Is it always bad? Who are those unnamed “senior administration officials” you read so much about? And how can you sound smart at the bar if you’re unlucky enough to be trapped in a discussion of Beltway media jargon?

First, a bit of background: Holder called major outlets to come discuss the Justice Department’s handling of national security leaks. The invitation followed disclosures that the department had seized reporters’ telephone and email records and had even suggested one journalist, James Rosen of Fox News, had acted like a spy by doing his job.

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