Conduct an interview with the thought that everything you say to a reporter will be printed or aired on television. Occasionally, however, the issue of ground rules may arise. Clarify the rules with the reporter before you conduct the interview.
- On-the-record: Everything you say can be quoted and you can be named (the standard practice for reporters when conducting an interview). This is also the Rock Island District's standard practice for doing business with the media.
- Off-the-record: The reporter agrees to take information from a protected source without writing a story or using the information in any way. This, however, does not prevent the reporter from getting the same information from another source and using it. DO NOT DO THIS. Everything you say should be considered on-the-record and attributable to you as the source of information.
- Background or not-for-attribution: The reporter can use the information with direct quotes, but not name the source: “a senior official close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified, said…” DO NOT DO THIS. Everything you say should be attributable to you as a source of information.
- Deep background or “for guidance”: A protected source who can’t be identified or directly quoted, but the information can be used by the journalist: “It is well-known within the Department that this situation…” In other words, you are pointing the reporter in a certain direction. DO NOT DO THIS. If you are aware of a source of information that is outside your area of expertise, you should provide the reporter with that source's contact information or forward the reporter to the Corporate Communications Office.
- This page is meant to give you definitions of media terms in the event a reporter asks for this type of interview. Please remember that all of your Corps interviews should be conducted on-the-record.