General Question

mee_ouch's avatar

What are the ramifications for a journalist who does not heed the "off the record" statement?

Asked by mee_ouch (656points) August 9th, 2008

Aside from the obvious shame and loss of journalistic integrity involved, how and what punishment would ‘fit the crime’?

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7 Answers

stratman37's avatar

I’ve often wondered about that myself. I don’t think it’s illegal, but it’s more like a professional courtesy. And if you break that trust, you won’t likely be hearing from that person on anything you can quote.

loser's avatar

A mafia hit.

Poser's avatar

Loss of trust and credibility. Quite a hit for a job that relies on both.

mee_ouch's avatar

Is there not, though, a journalistic version of the Hippocratic Oath? Can they in any way be sued for defamation in civil court?

Poser's avatar

Thanks to the freedom of the press clause in the first amendment, journalists are fairly safe from prosecution in the execution of their duties. Pretty much the only legal issues journalists have to worry about are libel and slander, which are quite difficult cases to win. The libeled/slandered party has to prove first that the statements were false, that the journalist/editor knew the statements were false, and that they intentionally printed/broadcast them anyway, and that by printing/broadcasting them, the journalist caused some harm to come to the plaintiff. There are further hoops to jump through if that person is considered a public figure. So, unless the “off the record” stuff was false, there really aren’t any legal ramifications for a journalist who lets something out that was supposed to be off the record.

However, for the investigative journalist, who relies as much on his reputation as a trustworthy journalist as he does on his writing abilities, losing his credibility can pretty much ensure that no sources will speak to him again—on or off record. Usually, this is a career ending stunt.

mee_ouch's avatar

You said a mouthful of very pertinent information. Great answer….Thank you so much.

MissSharon0905's avatar

None, it’s a matter of honor and trust. Journalist know that their reputation is everything. If people can’t trust them, then they’ll never get any information from anyone. So there is no legal ramification. They can’t be arrested, or charged with anything. They simply lose credibility and it make it’s difficult to do their job. If it happens with the wrong person, it can be a career ender

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