May 3, 2014

Josh Rogin explains the journalistic ethics of recording John Kerry's "apartheid" remarks at a meeting of the Trilateral Commission last week.

Here, at The Daily Beast:
If a reporter agrees that a conversation or event is off-the-record, then of course he cannot print what was said during that interchange. But the unwritten rule—the one that directly applies here—is that if a reporter enters an off-the-record event uninvited and has not agreed to the off-the-record terms, he is free to report what happens inside that event. It’s the responsibility of the event organizers to keep reporters from entering events without invitations. As long as the reporter does not misrepresent himself and does not attempt to conceal a recording device, the event is fair game. That’s the rule....
People keep saying he "sneaked in," but what does that mean? The Trilateral Commission meeting was disclosed by the State Department and marked "closed press." The location was undisclosed but Rogin had a tip that it was at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, so he went there and "walked straight to the front entrance of the room, nodded politely to the staffer at the door (she nodded back) and entered along with dozens of other people who were filing in."

Rogin says the only thing he regrets is helping himself to the pork loin, chicken, and pilaf at the lunch buffet.

38 comments:

pm317 said...

It is bad if it is done to Democrats. If done to any other person, hint, hint, is a hero.

Patrick O said...

Shorter explanation: The Press sometimes does its job.

rhhardin said...

The important thing is the satisfaction of soap opera women readers.

Mark O said...

Nothing said by the Secretary of State outside his working group should ever be off the record.

Those who deride this recording celebrate the leaked Sterling conversations.

cubanbob said...

A reporter quoting accurately and in context a public official in his capacity as a public official is somehow journalistically unethical? I suppose if no Republican official is involved it must be so according to the left in its self appointed capacity of Deciders In Chief.

Michael K said...

I have seen no concerns about the recording of Romney at a closed event where his remarks, aside from being true, were damaging.

The "cling to their guns and religion" gaffe by Obama was recorded by an Obama supporter who probably agreed with him.

Bob Boyd said...

Clearly they weren't too worried about reporters getting in. Why would they be?
Kerry probably feels like he was bitten by his own dog.

YoungHegelian said...

So, it's okay to ruin Mr. Sterling's life by exposing a private citizen's personal conversations, but someone has ethical issues with recording the comments of an official paid by the taxpayers when he's speaking "publicly"? **

If this was an off the record event, why was no one checking credentials and IDs at the door? I mean, hell, I've been to IT trade shows with better security, much less a gathering of august members of the foreign policy establishment.


** Any matter that the Sec of State discusses that's not a question of national security is "public", including a discussion at the Tri-Lat Commission.

Bob Boyd said...

The story that a reporter actually did his job is bigger than the original story he wrote.

CStanley said...

The only negative about this story is that the politicians are going to start locking the doors and screening everyone who enters an "off the record" event.

Lucien said...

There are no rules except that if you go around telling people that things are off the record, and then print them, no one will tell you off the record stuff any more.

Of course, if too many "journalists" do this, then no one will tell anybody off the record stuff, spoiling the party.

So the journalistic "community" has an interest in setting some norms.

Mark said...

Wow, a real reporter doing real reporting. No wonder Washington wants to stop the presses.

AJ Lynch said...

I always believed the Trilateral Commission was one of Cedarford's boogie men and now I learn it truly exists!

Matthew Sablan said...

"If this was an off the record event, why was no one checking credentials and IDs at the door?"

-- Because incompetence is pretty regular at these sorts of events. Good thing no one had nefarious intentions.

JohnJEnright said...

As regards Rogin's regrets, I have heard that reporters have a very hard time passing up free food.

SteveR said...

This story encapsulates the press perfectly. Not how it always is or should be, but how its far from consistent or reliable.

Mark said...

Considering I probably kicked in a small amount toward that lunch in a number of different ways, I don't begrudge Rogin his free meal.

Moose said...

You can't judge if you're a journalist. Especially your own actions, apparently.

damikesc said...

Stop giving the government "off the record" clearance.

It's on the record or it's ignored. Reporters have to AGREE that it's off the record for it to be off the record.

Chuck said...

"...pork loin..."

I think somebody buried the lede.

Anyway, it is interesting to me that the terms of Josh Rogin's recording haven't been a bigger deal, but that's because the basic story itself wasn't much reported in the first place.

Read this piece in the New Yorker by John Cassidy. Substitute "Romney" for "Kerry" and "47%" for "apartheid." And, in fairness to Cassidy, I think I could have written the same thing.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2014/04/john-kerry-and-the-a-word-three-takeaways.html

CWJ said...

Expanding upon Michael K's comment.

I also immediately thought of the Romney recording. IIRC, the "recorder" was a hotel employee (bartender?) not a member of the press.

So Romney was a candidate for President but still a private citizen secretly recorded by a hotel employee with malicious intent. This is purportedly OK.

Kerry is a serving member of the administration speaking directly to his area of public responsibility. No one present had any reasonable reason to think that his comments reflected anything other than US policy. A reporter is present who reports his comments. This is purportedly not OK.

They may be unavoidable, but the problem is anonymous tips and off the record comments, NOT how they become publicly known. Without them, the "ethics" become much simpler.

Skeptical Voter said...

I'm amused that Kerry's comments were made before the Trilateral Commission. If you listen to conservative talk radio (as I do from time to time) you'll hear good right wing folks who are very very concerned about the dastardly sorts of things that go on behind closed doors at the Trilateral Commission.

Considering that Jean Fraud Kerry felt comfortable making his statement to the Trilateral Commission, maybe there's something to that paranoia.

But me--heck I don't worry about the Trilateral Commission, and I do enjoy hearing Kerry put his wingtips in his mouth.

Drago said...

AJ Lynch: "I always believed the Trilateral Commission was one of Cedarford's boogie men and now I learn it truly exists!"

It has been in existence for quite awhile.

It was one of Lyndon LaRouches big boogeyman ways of roping in stray eyeballs.

Here's a funnier take on "World Control" organizations:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPMS6tGOACo

best line: "Because he puts an addictive chemical in it that makes you crave for it fortnightly smartass!"

Bob Boyd said...

"There's an effort to controversialize reporting that can be damaging to certain interests and its their effort to make it appear as though very legitimate lines of criticism and fair reporting are in fact somehow controversial and by saying it often enough I think they've convinced people that in fact it is." - Sharyl Attkisson

http://reason.com/reasontv/2014/05/03/former-cbs-reporter-sharyl-attkisson-ben

stlcdr said...

Is an 'undisclosed' location the same as a 'secret' location?

Also, is an off-the-record situation a legal or moral standpoint? What if a reporter reports on off the record comments?

Further, if the comments or anything said at this dinner party is off the record, what the heck is a reporters interest in it? "Yeah, some really cool shit was said, but if I tell you, I'll have to kill you."

CWJ said...

Rereading my last comment, I had to laugh at my effort to be careful about the expectations of Kerry's audience.

They're the Trilateral Commission. They had every expectation that Kerry's comments did represent US policy. Otherwise, why are they there? I expect every one of them in attendence thinks himself smarter than John Kerry. They're not there to hear his personal opinions or amusing anecdotes.

That said. It begs the question. Trilateral commission or not, why are they privy to an off the record briefing on US foreign policy unavailable to the citizenry?

I imagine that strategic stock trades may have been made both during and immediately after the meeting that if done on tbe basis of private information outside the cover of (private) public policy would be subject to insider trading prosecution.

The Godfather said...

I am constantly amazed that public officials and public figures think they can say things "off the record" or "in confidence" to a group of people, and not have it reported all over the world within a few days.

President Romney, are you listening?

David said...

I like the free lunch part of this story best. Do you suppose that the press would rebel if they had to pay for their lunch? Aren't there some guidelines about this sort of thing?

The reason that they do not disclose "off the record" stuff is threeefold. (1) If they did disclose, the reporter and the news organization would be severely punished by losing all access. (2) Off the record is one step away from the confidential source, and they can not live without the confidential source. (3) They think they are really cool if they know something you and I do not.

Wilbur said...

I wonder if the woman working the door lost her job ...

Wilbur said...

I wonder if the woman working the door lost her job ...

AJ Lynch said...

The Youtube video was a good one Drago. Was Mike Myers playing the father role too?

traditionalguy said...

Bashing a good reporter for reporting the truth about the American Secretary of State's changing 60 years of American policy favoring survival of Israel tells us how deceived we are being kept.

John Kerry may have his Trilateral Commission insiders who are entitled to know actual truth, but letting their evil intention slip out to the rest of us is strictly verboten.

gk1 said...

I wonder if there are any american jews that are sorry the voted for obama, twice. Its pretty clear Barak Hussein Obama will be instrumental in disengaging the U.S from Israel and letting the Mullahs in Iran obtain a nuclear bomb.

Greg Hlatky said...

I expect every one of them in attendence thinks himself smarter than John Kerry.

I expect the people who set up the buffet think they're smarter than John Kerry. He's kind of the Mendoza Line of intelligence.

Wilbur said...

Hmmm ... what is the Mendoza Line on the IQ scale?

John Stodder said...

The first rule of PR is there is no such thing as "off the record."

If you want to say apartheid to somebody, get a dog.

Drago said...

AJ Lynch said...
The Youtube video was a good one Drago. Was Mike Myers playing the father role too?

Yes.

The father sequences were particularly amusing and Phil Hartman's cameo as the Alcatraz tour guide was classic.

I miss Phil Hartman's style of comedy.

Drago said...

The media's rule for how to treat "unknowing" comments by a public figure is quite simple.

If it reflects negatively on a Republican, push the meme for all it's worth and question every other Republican/conservative about their thoughts on the comments.

If it reflects negatively on a Democrat, the focus becomes exclusively on the "leaker" and the motivations of the "leaker" and any negative information about the "leaker".

Again, this is not complicated.